Subclinical mastitis
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Three tips to keep profit-robbing subclinical mastitis in check

January 09, 2019
POSTED BY: Mark Kirkpatrick | DVM, MS | Managing Veterinarian | Dairy Technical Services | Zoetis

A high individual cow somatic cell count (SCC) can be like a high interest rate — it undermines your ability to make progress and ultimately robs profit from your investment. In fact, if you don’t keep SCC levels in check, profitability may be reduced by an estimated $285 per cow.1

Analysis of lactation records from more than 164,000 Holstein cows found that high SCC puts producers at risk of losing 1,583 pounds of milk per cow across 210 days of lactation.1 That’s $285 in lost milk yield per cow (based on $18/cwt).1 You can’t afford to let high SCC rob that much profit.

The additional implications of high first-test SCC are real and expensive, including increased risk of clinical mastitis, relapse, treatment costs and culling — not to mention reduced reproductive performance.2-6

Apply these management practices to keep money in your pocket and your SCC “interest rate” in check:

  1. Monitor individual cow SCC to track early lactation udder health. Strive to have no more than 10% of cows with a first test greater than 200,000 cells/mL in a given month of freshening. Use the individual data to make a “hot sheet” of cows with somatic cell counts greater than 200,000 cells/mL for closer monitoring.
  2. Establish culturing protocols to help develop a pathogen map. A pathogen map can help you determine the best course of prevention and therapy based on the mastitis-causing pathogens specific to your dairy. Work with your veterinarian to review the results and identify on-label treatment protocols based on the common pathogens on your dairy. Targeted treatments will provide the best chance for a bacteriological cure. Remember, it’s about treating for a complete cure, not just treating the symptoms.
  3. Minimize subclinical mastitis risk at dry off. Implementing an effective dry cow program that includes products such as SPECTRAMAST® DC (ceftiofur hydrochloride) Sterile Suspension and ORBESEAL® teat sealant can help eliminate the most common mastitis-causing pathogens. It’s also a low-risk intervention compared with lactation therapy. Prevention of both clinical and subclinical mastitis infections in the first 60 days of lactation should be a goal for every dairy. Cows with two or more lactations normally have higher proportions of first-test high SCC scores of 200,000 or greater. Cows with a high SCC at first test (greater than 200,000) can experience an increased loss of 576 pounds of milk, when compared with cows having clinical mastitis in the first 60 days of lactation.1

Visit with your Zoetis representative or go to to learn more about the impact high SCC can have on dairy profitability and how to make sure a high SCC “interest rate” doesn’t undermine your progress.

IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION: People with known hypersensitivity to penicillin or cephalosporins should avoid exposure to SPECTRAMAST DC. Product requires a 30-day dry cow period and has a 16-day pre-slaughter withdrawal period following last treatment. Use of this product in a manner other than indicated on the label, or failure to adhere to the proper milk discard period, will result in violative residues. See full Prescribing Information, attached.

Refer to the ORBESEAL label for complete instructions on proper administration at dry off and removal at freshening.


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.




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