Is peak production stressful? No! Peak production is the result of a healthy animal consuming high-quality feedstuffs and living in comfortable facilities. With that said, peak production is not without risks. A common expression is “Don’t sweat the small stuff!” When it comes to achieving and sustaining peak performance and high-quality milk in a dairy herd, attention to every aspects of the cow’s life is critical. Peak production requires sweating the small stuff.

Regarding milk quality, the small stuff can be summarized in two areas – exposure and resistance.

Exposure describes all the bacterial sources that the cow’s teat ends are exposed to on a daily basis. Resistance includes everything that reduces the chances of bacteria entering the streak canal and causing mastitis. A cow’s mammary gland is an excellent microbiology laboratory. When mastitis or SCC intensify, either resistance has decreased or exposure has increased.

Reduce exposure

  • Control bacterial growth. Bacteria need warmth, moisture and food to grow. Keep bacteria cold, dry and hungry to ward them off.
  • Monitor bedding materials. Dry is good, wet is bad. Low levels of colony-forming units (CFUs) are also important. Washed, dry, virgin sand is the “gold standard” for bedding.
  • Set solid milking procedures. Prep is the major step in reducing environmental mastitis. You can wipe them off or you can kill them with iodine or chlorine dioxide. Chlorine dioxide handles organic loads best.

Increasing resistance

  • Support strong immune function. This can be done by feeding correctly balanced, high-quality feedstuffs, minimizing the effects of mycotoxins and keeping acidosis at bay.
  • Care for the teat sphincter. Minimize hyperkeratosis and dry skin. Wipe teat ends completely clean. High milk flow washes keratin out of the streak canal (a natural bacterial barrier). Correct usage of a true barrier dip can enhance the natural protective mechanisms. PD

Roger Thomson is a veterinarian withTeam Management Concepts. Email Roger Thomson.