It really shouldn’t have been this dry - after all, it was the last week in June and it was Gippsland!
In fact, the only problem we had as we walked across the designated calving paddock on that day was the icy wind which was intent on going through anything in its path rather than around it!
The paddock was a great choice for calving - it was close to the house as well as to the dairy yards and facilities, plus it was well drained, with a clean pick of pasture.
Most of the spring calving cows have now been dried-off and will be enjoying their “annual holiday”.
This is an ideal time to pause briefly, reflect on the dry-off and consider whether any adjustment to the calving management strategy might be beneficial.
Given the difficulties of this season, all costs have been closely scrutinised and treatment cost at drying-off has been no exception.
As a result, some farms have needed to compromise at dry-off in terms of cost.
Wet weather and mud has returned with a vengeance, and many farms will now be calving cows in these conditions.
The most common cause of mastitis around calving, both clinical cases and new subclinical infections, is Streptococcus uberis (Strep uberis). This is an environmental organism passed in the faeces of cattle, so the major source of these mastitis infections on the farm is from contamination of teats with faeces and mud.
In most areas, spring calving is well under way, so now is a good time to be very aware of how much mastitis is occurring at calving time, and to be ready to act if necessary.
Countdown has given us a set of "triggers" to indicate when there could be a significant problem which is likely to be worth looking into.
The trigger point for clinical cases of mastitis at calving is 5%.
For this purpose, the calving period for each cow (or heifer) is defined as two weeks before calving until two weeks after calving.
For every 100 cows that calve, if you have 5 or more cows that develop a clinical case in the first 2 weeks after they have calved, it is likely that there is a problem.
For an earlier indication, you can think of the trigger as 3 cases in every 50 cows that calve.
What if you find that you are exceeding that trigger? What should you do?
Many herds have either just started spring calving or are just about to, and in many cases that will be in wet & muddy conditions.
For each cow, the calving period (2 weeks before calving until 2 weeks after) is the highest risk period for new mastitis infections, and wet conditions significantly increase that risk of mastitis.
Most new mastitis infections in this calving period are likely to be environmental (commonly Strep uberis), and for this infection to occur, the teat must come into contact with contaminated material (generally mud and/or faeces).
It’s not long till the autumn cows start to calve, so we have been busy developing calving strategies with our new clients, and updating previous calving strategies with our “old” clients.
We work through six key areas of management of the calving and fresh cows to reduce the risk of mastitis in those cows, and one key area of risk has consistently shown up as a potential problem.
Many farms are running the freshly calved and colostrum cows as a separate herd during the calving period. Whilst this has lots of advantages, there are also some inherent risks.