Somatic cell count – it’s more than a number
I recently examined lactation records of more than 164,000 Holstein cows on 22 diaries. I was looking for the presence of high first-test somatic cell count (SCC) or a recorded clinical mastitis case in the first 60 days in lactation. In the study, cows with an SCC greater than 200,000 cells/mL at the first DHI test were classified as subclinical mastitis infections.1
Subclinical infections, real consequences
The implication of high first-test SCC are real and expensive.
These implications include:
- Lost milk production throughout lactation2
- Increased risk of clinical mastitis3-6
- Increased treatment costs and production loss
- Risk of mastitis recurrence
- Cost of removals from herd1
- Reduced reproductive efficiency3-6
According to this study, losses attributed to high first-test SCC consisted of the following:
- 1,583 pounds of lost milk production, amounting to $285 (based on $18/cwt) in lost milk yield; these losses extend through 210 days in lactation1
- 2.5 times more likely to develop a clinical case of mastitis by 60 days in milk (DIM) than the rest of the herd – not to mention the cost of treatment and production loss1
- 3 times more likely to be culled within the first 60 DIM when compared with unaffected cows1
- 17 additional days open (not pregnant) 1
Keep High-SCC cows in check
Monitoring individual cow SCC through monthly DHI testing is an important tool for tracking early lactation udder health.
Consider these steps:
- Evaluating each quarter of high-SCC cows using the California Mastitis Test (CMT).
- Treating subclinical mastitis infections with a broad-spectrum mastitis therapy labeled for subclinical mastitis.
- Collecting milk samples from each infected quarter to help identify the bacterial organism.
Work with your veterinarian to properly manage and identify high-SCC cows in your herd.
1 Kirkpatrick MA, Olson JD. Somatic Cell Counts at First Test: More than a Number, in Proceedings. NMC Annu Meet 2015;53-56.
2 Hertl JA, Schukken YH, Bar D, et al. The effect of recurrent episodes of clinical mastitis caused by gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria and other organisms on mortality and culling in Holstein dairy cows. J Dairy Sci 2011;94(10):4863-4877.
3 Chebel R. Mastitis effects on reproduction, in Proceedings. NMC Regional Meeting 2007;43-55.
4 Hertl JA, Gröhn YT, Leach JD, et al. Effects of clinical mastitis caused by gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria and other organisms on the probability of conception in New York State Holstein dairy cows. J Dairy Sci 2010;93(4):1551-1560.
5 Hertl JA, Schukken YH, Welcome FL, Tauer LW, Gröhn YT. Effects of pathogen-specific clinical mastitis on probability of conception in Holstein dairy cows. J Dairy Sci 2014;97(11):6942-6954.
6 Lavon Y, Ezra E, Leitner G, Wolfenson D. Association of conception rate with pattern and level of somatic cell count elevation relative to time of insemination in dairy cows. J Dairy Sci 2011;94(9):4538-4545.