Dealing with Mastitis
IT is one of those ever-present disease battles a dairyfarmer faces and its treatment can cut into profits in a big way.
When Hope Forest dairyman Jason Steinborne and his parents David and Rosemary Smith took over the renowned Fleurieu Jerseys stud from Sue and Tim Thorn in April last year, he learnt about the severities of the dreaded mastitis the hard way.
While the farm had been well-run, Jason inherited its issues with mastitis and high somatic cell counts.
The number of clinical mastitis cases in the herd was not huge but enough to be a pain, particularly since he was getting penalised by his milk processor for high somatic cell counts.
"Over summer, our cell counts got the highest, which might sound a bit funny because most people have issues in winter. But that was because we didn't have any calves to feed so all the milk was going in the vat," Jason said.
"The bulk milk cell count was getting up over 300,000, so I did start to lose quite a few demerit points from my milk company, Dairy Farmers Milk Cooperative.
"The average cell count from August last year was 190,000 whereas the average this year is 150,000, so I'm hoping I'm getting on top of that with what I've been doing."
Last year, between 30 per cent and 35pc of the heifers contracted mastitis at calving and this year the first batch of autumn-calving heifers had the same rate of infection.
Jason said the issue that concerned him most was the fact they lost the use of one quarter of their udder.
"We've got a herd with fairly high genetic merit and to get a really good heifer come in and have mastitis can be extremely disappointing," he said.
To bring the problem under control, Jason went from doing nothing to changing everything at once. This is why he cannot credit one element as the reason for bringing the cell count and number of mastitis cases down.
Working closely with his vet Simon Edwards from Willunga Veterinary Services, Jason started by culling about six perpetually infected cows and has plans to cull six more.
He also changed his springer management by dividing their paddock up into three smaller subsidiaries and rotating the cows between the three sections to keep the ground relatively clear and minimise the risk of infection.
"We start calving in February or March and finish in September, so most of the time the ground is wet when the cows are calving which could be contributing to the mastitis issue," Jason said.