Thursday, 23 July 2020 09:11

Mastitis prevention move pays off

Written by  Adam Fricker
When it comes to mastitis prevention, farmer Enda Hawe targets specific cows based on herd results. When it comes to mastitis prevention, farmer Enda Hawe targets specific cows based on herd results.

Dairy farmer Enda Hawe’s focus on mastitis prevention and teat condition rather than blanket use of DCT during dry off is paying dividends.

A former Sharemilker of the Year, Enda Hawe has run his own farm in Rakaia for the last two years under the banner Emerald Pastures – a nod to his homeland, Ireland.

His approach to drying off has evolved over the years, with the aim now being mastitis prevention, including a real focus on the importance of maintaining excellent teat condition.

Rather than opting for blanket use of antibiotics when drying off, he targets specific cows based on their performance in herd test results.

“Approaching drying off, I like to wind the cows down quite hard. I minimise the green feed, and substitute with straw to reduce the quantity of milk flow,” says Hawe. “I make sure I get the teat spray on there. And I don’t blanket dry cow [therapy]. I selectively chose the cows to administer dry cow therapy (DCT) to, based on their herd tests.”

He says that by keeping somatic cell counts down all year by using the right products, he doesn’t end up with an unnecessarily high DCT bill at the end of the season. This approach to drying off has worked well for him for over 10 years now. 

Part of Hawe’s regime during the last decade has been choosing the right teatspray – in his case, Deosan TeatX. Eleven years ago, he saw better teat condition within a week of first using the product and has stuck with it ever since. He says he started using it as a teatspray before his cows calved, aiming to lift teat condition in his herd – a key component of his ‘prevention’ approach to mastitis.

In the same way that his selective use of DCT saves him money, using a teatspray with a fast-acting surfactant formulation that delivers the ‘actives’ to where the bugs are, pays dividends. If the active ingredient doesn’t get into skin, it is probably a waste of money.

Science backs up Hawe’s belief in incorporating good teatspray into an effective mastitis prevention regime. Otago University Professor Greg Cook, whose work has focused on antimicrobial resistance, teamed up with Kiwi-owned agrichemical company, Deosan, to advance the science around teatsprays – sanitizing products that prevent infections in the first place, reducing the need for antibiotics later on.

Deosan managing director Kip Bodle says the work with Professor Cook on teatsprays sharpened Deosan’s focus onto what is best for the cow.  He says what is best for the cow is not formulations loaded with unnecessarily high levels of ‘actives’, it is formulations that enhance the cow’s natural defence mechanisms.

“Enhancing rather than hindering its natural defence mechanisms against mastitis is more about skin condition than killing bugs,” says Bodle. “So we started by reviewing our surfactant formulation to maintain a very fast penetration speed into the skin surface, then on emolliency to support skin condition, and then the level of active ingredient to kill mastitis bugs.”

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Dutch robotic specialist Lely launched a new farm management application called Horizon at its recent Future Farm Days 2020.

Designed to connect data from a range of on-farm equipment and suppliers into one management system, it creates a real-time decision-support platform, to make the farmer’s life easier, the herd healthier and the farm more profitable, says Lely.

Developed over a 24-month period, with over 100 test farmers in seven countries, working with 75 engineers, designers, farm management advisors, veterinarians and AI specialists, the new application will eventually replace the current Lely T4C management system. It uses smart algorithms and the cloud to deliver data that is processed into actionable information that is always accessible on any device in a user-friendly way.

Lely claims the Horizon application unburdens farmers from routine decision making and helps them optimise their workloads, using integrated routines based on easily scheduled cow ‘touches’, create logical and more efficient workflows. It is also possible to assign a certain task to an employee and to schedule a time slot for the cow touch, rather than analysing different reports and filtering long lists.

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To ensure full support in the migration to Lely Horizon, existing Lely T4C customers will be personally informed by their Lely Center before the end of 2020.

The migration is planned in a phased approach, from country to country, over the year 2021.

Also launched at the event, Lely Exos is an autonomous concept for harvesting and feeding fresh grass to the herd.

The company suggests that feeding fresh grass makes better use of available roughage, suggesting “fresh” has between 10 and 20% more nutritional value than grass silage, as there are minimal losses typically seen during mowing, tedding, raking, harvesting and feeding.

Lely suggests that feeding fresh grass over an extended season reduces the amount of silage that has to be conserved, reduces the need for concentrates and bought-in feed and increase the margin made on each litre of milk produced.

Based around an all-electric vehicle that mows and feeds, Exos is light weight and uses soil friendly technology, that can be exploited throughout the growing season. Design to work 24/7 as feed requirements change, the system places no constraints on labour or time, while it is also designed to work in tandem with the Lely Vector automatic feeding systems.

In operation, Exos also collects field data as it goes about its job, giving framers live data on grass supply and lending itself to a further concept of delivering a targeted liquid fertiliser as it passes over a harvested area.

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