Corrigan Sowman – Golden Bay
Corrigan Sowman’s experience as a consulting officer with (then) Dexcel and later with Farmright meant he was very aware of the significant problems large herds in Canterbury were experiencing with heifer mastitis. Grazing off on winter crops, time, and lack of staff skills were often exacerbating the problem for many large herd owners he dealt with, creating real stress at calving time.
When Corrigan returned home to manage the family’s 850 head dairy unit in the Golden Bay with partner Ruth three years ago, he soon experienced those mastitis problems first hand in his heifers.
“The first year we had some real problems, with heifers having udder oedema, leaking milk and resulting in mastitis infections, it was a real headache.” That year the replacements recorded a 20% infection rate. The following season he also had 46 out of his 224 replacements affected by spring mastitis, a major antibiotic bill, lowered milk volume and enough of the headache that went with it all.
“Through my contact with Lincoln’s dairy farm I was familiar with Teatseal as a means of dealing with the growing heifer problem. We decided to use it for the 2010-2011 season on our replacements.”
The results speak volumes about the success he enjoyed – they only had three mastitis cases in their 158 heifers over spring, a mere 1.6% incidence.
Corrigan says administering Teatseal pre-calving coincided with efforts to improve heifer management over spring time. Feeding regimes were altered to reduce oedema, while a new rotary platform made for easier drafting and teat spraying pre-calving.
“Using the Teatseal helped reduce the leakage which had been leading to mastitis infections, and having the right facility to administer it made the job pretty straightforward.” He worked with the vets from the Rural Service Centre to ensure the Teatseal was applied hygienically and with their help it was a “relatively straightforward” job.
Mid season mastitis levels are negligible and the herd’s production is running 7% ahead of the 2009-2010 year, something he partly attributes to having more milk going into the vat over spring time, rather than held out with antibiotics in it.
Other than the reduction in his antibiotic bill, the one benefit also greater than Teatseal cost is ensuring his high genetic merit replacements are not affected so early in their lifetime.
The other benefit is simply less time spent in the dairy when time is tight.
“We had a very stress free calving, and the results showed. We only had three deaths this year out of 850 cows, simply because we were not in the dairy dealing with mastitis all the time.”
- Teatseal formed part of a solution to managing heifers over spring to reduce mastitis, which also included feed management, identifying the type of infection affecting cows and treating specifically.
- Teatseal contributed directly to better production on vat volumes ie less going to calves or down drain because it has antibiotics in it from mastitis treated cows.
- Teatseal offers some potential to treat some higher cell count mixed age cows in future – ie a targeted treatment combination.
- Teatseal has saved significant time and reduced stress, with payback coming not only in lower antibiotic treatments, but also fewer cow deaths because they had more time to tend to calving herd, versus being stuck in dairy treating infected heifers.
David Croft – Culverden
After the success he enjoyed using Teatseal this season, David Croft knows it was no fluke after last year’s success that was in far easier calving conditions. David used Teatseal in combination with a short acting dry cow treatment at drying off in May 2009 on his 1200 cows, and also administered Teatseal to 250 heifers pre-calving.
He opted to use Teatseal in the herd for the first time at the end of the 2009 lactation after “chronic” mastitis problems throughout the season, and particularly at pre-calving which would see up to 25% of the herd infected. The success of that first year’s treatment was quickly evident – he only had one cow and one heifer presenting with mastitis post-calving. “Some might have said that those results were simply the outcome of better environmental conditions, but the outcome this year would prove that wrong.”
Last winter-spring period was a sharp contrast to this year, with significantly more mud and rain this winter, one of the wettest ever recorded. However after treating 1200 cows with a combination short acting dry cow plus Teatseal, and 270 heifers pre-calving the results were “outstanding” again, despite those conditions says David.
“We would only have had eight cows present with mastitis after calving and a couple of heifers – that’s versus a quarter of the herd coming in two seasons ago.”
By mid November the herd’s BMSCC was sitting at 70,000, around half what it had been prior to using the Teatseal treatment. The stress at drying off has been reduced by at least as much as that at calving.
Time spent in the dairy stripping cows out has been halved, with David proactively stripping only once a week to catch any early stages of mastitis for good practice.
“It has transferred the work load to a time when you can deal with mastitis problems, and there are less of them when you do have to.”
The savings in stress are also matched by economic benefits, David estimates he would have sliced $30,000 off the herd drug treatment bill, not counting the milk unable to be sent. Risks around residual antibiotics at the start of calving in milk are also lower, thanks to him being able to use a shorter acting dry cow antibiotic in the Teatseal combination treatment. He found the cost of the Teatseal and short acting antibiotic dry cow was a similar price to using a longer acting more potent anti-biotic dry cow treatment alone.
All the Teatseal treatments were made using the highly capable technical staff at North Canterbury Vets, combining a good team approach with David’s staff all the heifers were done on the rotary platform in a day.
“And everyone, including the heifers left the dairy happy at the end of the day.”
The herd’s BMSCC peaked at 225,000 on the last day of collection, and was still sitting at a comfortable 125,000 by the end of May.
Of the Big Four issues facing large herd operators – staff, fertiliser, cow fertility and herd health, David rates Teatseal as one product that deals well with mastitis and herd health, leaving time to focus on getting the other areas right as well.
- Saved time – moved a critical time consuming problem away from a time short period of year.
- Risk reduction – lowered the risk of antibiotic grade early in season through dry cow residual in milk, by allowing him to use a shorter acting antibiotic.
- Cost not an issue – a competitive price to longer acting dry cow alone.
- Proven in most difficult field conditions possible after this season.
Debbie Langford - Karamea
Having a run-off 10km from the home farm can be a double edged sword for Karamea farmers Peter and Debbie Langford. While it’s ideal for grazing heifers up until calving, it can also mean the good feed regime they get over winter can cause some to leak milk prior to calving, and be more susceptible to mastitis infection. For several years heifer mastitis in spring has dogged their 210 cow herd, and by the 2009-10 season with infection rates up to 20% in the heifers, Debbie was well ready to find a realistic solution.
“We have always had a lot of heifers come in with mastitis, and they are terrible to treat. The natural swelling they already experience makes it hard to know once you have treated them if it has worked.”
“I attended a field day on using Teatseal on heifers at Hokitika with our vet Emily Wiffen. The results presented by the Pfizer people there showed it worked well, and I thought this may be what I need. I made sure I had a go at inserting Teatseal into a heifer there – and was surprised how quiet she was.” Debbie says this was probably her greatest concern, on how to administer the Teatseal, and she reckons her neighbours were convinced she was mad trying.
She and Peter bought the 60 heifers back from the run off earlier than usual to administer the Teatseal. Difficulties in getting them tight in the herringbone meant they used the vet race. While initially unsure how it would go, they finished the job in a few hours with Emily’s help and no drama.
The results were worth the effort of bringing the lot home early. This year Debbie only recorded four cases of spring mastitis in her heifers. She observed no problems with calves not being able to suck milk out for a first drink, and found the Teatseal stripped out cleanly at first milking.
“There was only one that got mastitis I would call bad, the others were minor and cleared up easily.” It’s a great contrast to the 20-plus percent she is used to dealing with, and she intends to make Teatseal on heifers part of her policy from now on.
“I know that if I had less than 12% heifers infected it may not be an economic return, but I do rate the convenience and time, along with knowing that these new cows are going to have a better chance to remain full, rather than three quarter milkers right from the start.”
- Not worried about her cows, but distressed to see heifers become reduced by 3 quarters right from the get go of the season in some cases.
- Farm set up is such that they don’t want heifers home any earlier, so need something to help manage mastitis resulting from good feed regime.
- She pretty much runs the farm, so wants a solution that she is involved in, and which will save her time over spring.
Derek Rutherford – Cheviot
This season Cheviot farm manager Derek Rutherford has enjoyed heifer mastitis figures that are a mere tenth of what his heifers were experiencing last spring, and the spring before that.
Spring 2008 was an appalling season for mastitis in Canterbury dairy herds. Derek experienced 31% heifer mastitis, and 34% in 2009, making this year’s 3.6% a “dream run” in his 165 heifer mob. Spring 2008 was made all the worse by having a high number of replacements, totalling 181, and Derek continues to deal with the fall out from their infections as he worked to build herd numbers to the present total of 750.
He decided mastitis was to be his key herd health priority this season. Attending a seminar on mastitis management, presented by respected veterinarian and dairy consultant Katrina Roberts did much to offer him some realistic and economic options to dealing with the problem. One of these was the potential to administer Teatseal to his heifers, another to blanket dry cow his milkers.
“I initially wondered how Teatseal would work any better than the natural plug already there,” says Derek. However research has shown that as many as 50% of heifers will lose that plug 10 days prior to calving, and become susceptible to spring mastitis at calving.
“With the Teatseal in place we had no dripping milk, and no chance for infection to get into them.”
Based off his Infovet data held by North Canterbury Vets, he only recorded two instances of mastitis on day 4 of the planned start of calving, one on day 5, and another at day 7.
He used the skills of North Canterbury Vet Clinic staff to Teatseal the heifers, aware of the need to maintain a high standard of hygiene throughout administration.
“The staff handled the heifers very well, calmly, quietly and they had a good system going, they were excellent.
By mid lactation his heifer mob was averaging a BMSCC of 30,000 and the mixed age cows 90,000. Costing out at around $12 per heifer, Derek says the cost:benefit was simply a “no brainer”, given even just the time and stress avoided, particularly as he continues to deal with a significant number of three teated cows from the past two years.
“Just the cost in what we have saved in not having to use injectables speaks for itself.”
North Canterbury Vets uses the Infovet software technology that allows vets to collect information on clients’ herds from multiple points, including Fonterra milk information and LIC herd test data.
“With this data there it has not been a hard sell to convince my boss Dave Holland to use Teatseal, we will be definitely using it again next season.”
Heifer losses – had been significant in terms of heifers becoming three titters, anything up to half those infected becoming three teated, but had to remain in herd in order to build herd numbers up.
Hygiene – was a key priority in inserting Teatseal, hence the use of vet technicians, they are well trained and quick.
Cost – not a major obstacle, the time saved in not stripping out cows, less stress etc is alone greater than the cost per heifer, without allowing for the cost of treatment, and lost milk.
Infovet – an invaluable service for bringing all the herd data together and putting the vets into a more consultative role, rather than an ambulance role, this is greatly appreciated and valued
Jason Lockwood - Takaka
The Pakahi soil in the Takaka district can make spring management a challenge, with grazing conditions often turning to mud quickly. The underlying iron pan can slow drainage over wet months, encouraging a build up of bacteria that inevitably adds to spring mastitis problems in milkers.
The property Jason Lockwood manages is no exception and last season he experienced considerable problems with spring mastitis in his heifers. He and his bosses Michelle and Brent Riley had heard about the success other operators had enjoyed with Teatseal, and decided it could be a good means to reduce heifer mastitis this season.
“We were having real problems with the heifers bagging up, with the pressure causing leakage and leading to infections. We would have had around 10% infected that way last spring,” says Jason. He believed the farm had lost some heifers early, simply from the effects of infection rendering quarters useless far too soon in their lactation.
Working with Rural Service Centre vets at Takaka, they treated the 120 heifers across the two properties owned by the Rileys three weeks prior to calving.
“We found they were not a problem to treat. The vets came out and did it without any fuss, it was a pretty easy exercise really.”
The outcome has Jason convinced Teatseal should become a regular part of the herd mastitis management programme, with no cases of spring mastitis recorded in the heifers in 2010.
Spring time was a lot more straightforward with less stress on animals and staff, particularly without the hassle of dealing with infected heifers at the end of milking every day. Jason found he had more time free to spend on springers, helping avoid late discovery of calving problems due to being tied up in the dairy managing infected heifers.
The herd’s BMSCC also started the season off lower than usual, sitting around 150,000 and providing a valuable buffer, particularly with one of the herds on once a day all season.
“I would venture to say the Teatseal paid for itself over spring time alone, just by avoiding the potential loss of heifers to mastitis in one or a couple of quarters, along with the treatment cost and the lost milk. I can’t rate it enough.”
Lincoln University Dairy Farm
Teatseal has played an integral part in helping bring spring mastitis problems into line on the Lincoln University Dairy Farm, setting the herd up well for the 2010-2011 season. However the September earthquake disrupted the milking routine and pushed somatic cell counts up again, requiring the management team to investigate a number of additional changes in plant and liners to try and bring the BMSCC back down.
The Lincoln University Dairy farm enjoyed earlier success with Teatseal in the 2009-2010 season with the total number of cow days lost to mastitis treatment down from 1700 in the 2008-09 season to 900.
Dairy farm data shows the incidence of spring mastitis has decreased with around 105 mastitis cow milking days lost in August this year, compared to 250 last year (2009/10) 350 in August 2008, and 550 in August 2007. Similarly in September the incidence was lowered from 550 in September 2008 to 300 in 2009 and 190 this season.
These results put the farm back on track to return to the rates recorded in 2004/05.
Farm manager Peter Hancox noted that dry conditions in the spring of 2009 invariably helped improve the results, however he also attributes it to the use of Teatseal on replacement heifers, and some of the mixed age milkers.
In 2009-10 the 660 head herd recorded 99 cases, or 15% mastitis. However the success of administering Teatseal to the heifers prior to calving is highlighted, with only 6 getting mastitis over spring ,out of the 187 replacements coming into the herd.
Of the 186 mixed age cow that had Teatseal administered in combination with dry cow antibiotic, only 13 or 7% of those treated got mastitis infections.
As a result of the success, the management strategy for the year ending 2010-2011 was to again administer Teatseal to all replacement heifers pre-calving. The process takes six hours and involves six people to ensure hygiene remains tight and constant throughout the process.
Meantime all mixed age cows also received Teatseal in combination dry cow therapy.
An economic evaluation of Teatseal’s use based on a $6/kgMS payment for lost milk, and antibiotic treatment of $30 per cow with mastitis, equates to a direct mastitis cost of $116 per cow. A reduction of 43 infections for the season would see a break even achieved for using Teatseal on all mixed age milkers.
Results released at the farm’s February Focus Day (see the handout at www.siddc.org.nz) showed the herd calved in spring 2010 with very low levels of clinical mastitis and bulk somatic cell count. The monthly average BMSCC for August was 150,000, down from 180,000 in 2009, and well down on the average of approximately 300,000 in 2008/09. Only 7 new cases of mastitis were recorded last August, down from 19 in 2009.
However, like many farms in the region, the September earthquake disrupted the milking routine, pushing cell counts up again, a disappointing result after an excellent start to the season.
Farm management are working hard on vacuum monitoring, teat spray mix, pulsation and liner type to try and restore herd BMSCC back nearer to the promising start seen in spring time.
To learn more about the Lincoln University dairy farm, visit: www.siddc.org.nz
Mark Warren – Windsor Dairies, Oamaru
Spending the money, and the time administering Teatseal to dairy heifers is worth the effort to avoid the cost, and the stress of dealing with their mastitis problems post calving.
Oamaru equity partner in Windsor Dairies Mark Warren has a 1400 cow herd and by the time the 2010-11 season rolled around he had had enough of the stress and time spent in previous years dealing with heifer mastitis in spring.
“We were seeing our good quality young stock come in with mastitis often from day one. It would not be unusual to have to administer antibiotic as the first thing you did to them, it was far from a satisfactory start to their milking lives.”
Mark estimates infection rates were up to a third of the 350-380 replacements coming in each year- a level not unusual for heifer infections in larger southern herds.
Poor weather would only exacerbate the problem.
“You would just know that with that weather infections would take a jump up.”
The infections his heifers were presenting with at calving often extended beyond simply one quarter, sometimes even to all four.
“So the chance of a 100% recovery was never really there and you usually end up with her having at least one lingering light quarter, even after the expense of treating her.”
Mark had read about the effectiveness of Teatseal as a preventative for heifer mastitis in the Dairy Exporter and attended a vet seminar about mastitis. Teatseal was presented as one tool to help address spring mastitis infection rates.
“Another option presented was teatspraying the springers every day, but in a large herd that is not an option, you really do not have the time to do it.”
Administering Teatseal to 350 heifers pre-calving is no small job, but Mark was happy to leave it in the capable hands of the team from Vetlife at Oamaru, under the guidance of his vet Greg Chambers. He took their advice that veterinary administration for heifer treatment was preferable; to ensure a high and consistent level of hygiene is maintained through the operation.
“Using Teatseal did cost us dollars up front, but in the long run we believed by using it up front and incurring that cost we would be better off by the time spring came around.”
This did turn out to be the case. After rates of almost 33%, infected heifers dropped to single figures, under 4% this year.
The cost earlier on of Teatseal resulted in not only a drop in the antibiotic bill, but gaining valuable time for Mark and his team.
“Not having all those infected heifers to deal with meant it took a lot of stress out, particularly if it was a wet day when they were calving.”
Many times on such days he would consider bringing in the springing heifers to teat spray.
“But those days they did need the attention were the days you could not get to them by the time you had done all the other jobs - using Teatseal meant we had taken control of that problem right from the start and did not have to worry about infection rates too much under those conditions.”
With the 2011-2012 season approaching Mark intends to make Teatseal administration to heifers pre-calving part of his policy.
“It is a management tool for large scale farming that works, no doubt about it.”
- Time saved was critical for him, staff are always a struggle to manage and employ, and he could focus more on managing them rather than putting out farm fires over spring time, getting more out of them.
- It was highly demoralising to see good high BW heifers going straight onto antibiotics, with all the risks that sit around that. (Eg. IS grades, mis-administration) , let alone having the animal compromised from day 1 of its lactation.
- Time, time, time, always critical with large herds over spring, Teatseal simply gave him more of it. Cost was not a problem; the value of that time alone was worth it.
- Spring became enjoyable, could survey the Big Picture around the farm and act strategically rather than tactically/on the run.
Simon Manson: Motukarara, Canterbury
The low lying land at Motukarara near Lake Ellesmere that Simon Manson farms on provides a challenge over winter-spring when trying to minimise mud and resulting mastitis infections in his 520 cow herd.
The inevitable combination of moisture, mud and proximity to calving has meant spring mastitis problems have been recurring over the years. Even with most of the herd held on the runoff until ready to calve, mud remains an on-going problem. To help alleviate the resulting mastitis problems Simon has always treated the whole herd with dry cow antibiotics, selecting product based on individual cow cell count.
However despite that, spring mastitis was almost inevitable in the mixed age milkers with infection rates of up to 28% often recorded in early lactation to the end of October. The spring of 2009 was a particularly difficult one as it was for many herds over spring time with infection rates, and prompted Simon to seek an effective solution.
“Our vet Jason Leslie suggested we should try Teatseal as a means to provide some longer lasting protection through to spring calving. I have to admit being sceptical about spending a similar amount of money again to what I was spending on dry cow antibiotic, but decided to give it a go.”
The winter-spring of 2010 provided the challenge, and the results, to convince Simon using a Teatseal-antibiotic combination was a good move.
Incessant wet, cold conditions meant mud was more of a problem than ever, but the Teatseal plug delivered the extended protection he had hoped for against bacterial udder infections. Milk leakage was minimised, and the protection stayed in place right up to the cows’ first milking.
The result was a halving of mastitis treatment administered from the start of calving until November 1, recording only 75 treatments.
Lactation kicked off in a very difficult spring with a BMSCC of 155,000, down from 270,000 in the spring of 2009, and almost half what was recorded in 2008. Well into the season in February, the herd’s BMSCC continued to sit at around 110,000 - over 100,000 down on where it has been in the past at the same period.
“It was not a grading issue at 240,000, but we felt it was an animal health one and that it was costing us in lower production.”
He found despite the poor conditions, this spring proved far easier to manage thanks to the lower mastitis rate. Less time was spent stripping out infected quarters, splitting out infected cows and re-checking them post-treatment.
“The key with Teatseal is to really watch your hygiene when administering it. We keep everything as clean as possible when we are putting it in, and we have had no problems.”
Simon maintains Teatseal will now definitely remain part of his drying off policy, and he would consider the possibility of administering it on its own to lower somatic cell cows.
Stu Davis – Vetlife Temuka
The biggest problem Stu Davis expected when he decided to use Teatseal last spring on his heifers was the stress of administering it to them. After repeated problems with spring mastitis infections in his 140 replacements every year, he decided to go with the advice offered by Andrew Bates at Vetlife Temuka. Andrew recommended Teatseal as the best option to rein in the repeated levels of infection Stu was getting every spring.
“I decided that if the vets were keen enough, then we would give it a go,” says Stu. Using the skills of the Vetlife team, and his own staff, he found the job was completed in a few hours without a great deal of drama. Stu says he had good reason to consider a new approach to dealing to spring mastitis as infection rates in the past had got up as high as 30% in heifers making spring a stressful, time starved period.
“You also spend a long time, and a lot of money growing a heifer out, and to lose a quarter when she gets infected so early on in her lifetime is a real kick, we had to have a better way to cope with it.”
After his first spring using Teatseal he only had two heifers with mastitis all spring, something even one of his new staff members commented on. The move to Teatseal has also accompanied two other changes this season, including adopting a new teat spray and changing antibiotic treatment. The BMSCC sits comfortably around 150,000 in March and the season started at a record low for Stu of around 120,000.
“Not having so many heifers with mastitis might have slowed down the infection passing through the rest of the herd – sometimes their infection does not show up until a few days after they have caught it, giving it time to spread.”
Getting the Teatseal administered involved rowing up the heifers tight in the herringbone, with any particularly feisty ones administered some sedative to calm them down.
“But I think we only had four or five that played up, the rest were fine.”
One of the concerns Stu had about Teatseal was the risk of infection on administration as the tube opens up the teat canal.
“The vets emphasised the need to keep everything very clean, using the wipes well and keeping the tubes out of the way – we did that and had no problems at all with infections afterwards.”
Meantime, the results provided a spring that was more straightforward with extra time to spend focusing on other issues that inevitably crop up at a busy time, and less time lost trying to sort out mastitis in the shed.
“We would definitely do the heifers again with Teatseal, it did exactly what it was supposed to do, and did it well.”
Stu Litchfield - Canterbury
It took a move from Morrinsville, Waikato to Dunsandel to help convince Stu Litchfield of Teatseal’s effectiveness in reducing mastitis infections in his mixed age milking herd. Ten years ago Stu and wife Gayle made the move south; keen to farm somewhere grass growth was more reliable.
But to do so they had to load 400 of their cows into truck units, knowing once they were on their way south he would have little control over where the herd were unloaded for spells along the way.
“I just decided using Teatseal in combination with dry cow antibiotic would be a good way to ensure they had some extra protection against infection. It made sense to me to have that extra plug in there to help keep bacteria out.”
He also knew when the herd were delivered for winter grazing there would be little opportunity to check their udders for infection until they were calving on the conversion property the couple had moved to.
Ten years on Stu is convinced the move to Canterbury was the right one, with their property having produced 1920kgMS/ha in its best year. He also continues to use Teatseal in combination with dry cow antibiotic on the mixed age milkers.
Along with careful attention to teat care and hygiene, the combination treatment at drying off accounts for an excellent BMSCC of only 68,000 this season, exceeding 100,000 only five times. The herd experiences minimal mastitis problems, typically only single figure percentages through the year.
“I figure you either spend the money over spring fixing mastitis, or you can spend it on Teatseal in autumn with your dry cow, and avoid it.” He acknowledges it is a big job administering Teatseal at drying off, but doing the cows in lots of 200 per day breaks up the job and ensures consistency in hygiene, so critical for Teatseal application.
“It just delivers that extra protection right up to when you are calving beyond when the antibiotic has stopped doing its job, and especially in the wet when infection is just that much more likely.”
Frustrating and costly problems with heifer spring mastitis also prompted Stu to start using Teatseal on his replacements five seasons ago.
“We were getting up to 50 out of 150 infected over spring. It was getting to be a real pain, often they were being fed crop in muddy conditions which only worsened the infections over calving.”
Teatseal protection now gives him peace of mind over wintering, and results in only 8-10 cases a year at spring in the heifers.
“I think the biggest thing that puts people off is the thought: ‘how do you administer it to heifers?’”
Working with Selwyn Rakaia Vets, Stuart will run the heifers onto the rotary platform and administering a very mild sedative makes the exercise calm and stress free, putting through around 50 per hour.
For Stu, protecting the heifers is now helping him realise the full potential of his replacements, rather than dreading it every time new heifers come into the dairy for the first time.
“It used to be they would come in and you would shudder about how many that day would be infected. Now you just check her, and she is away - it is very satisfying after spending two years getting her to that point.”
Meantime spring is a far more relaxed affair.
“Using Teatseal has taken all the stress out of it for me, I can be out of the shed more, rather than in there dealing with all those infected heifers, it is a no brainer really.”
Tim Burden: West Coast
Four seasons ago Tim Burden had had enough of grappling with heifers struck with mastitis and the hassles that went with trying to get them right again over spring time.
With infection rates as high as 40% some years, he was often watching his well grown replacements end up culled at the end of their first season, reduced to three-titters from the infections they had picked up in spring time.
“We would treat them and they would come right, only to find they would dry off in the quarter that was infected later in the season anyway.”
On advice from Hokitika Vets, Tim decided to try treating the heifers with Teatseal pre-calving, and was one of the earliest farmers on the coast to take what was then a new and radical approach to dealing to the problem.
The first year he treated the 60 nearest calving with Teatseal, and of those he only got 3 cases of mastitis. Of the remaining 60 replacements he ended up treating half of them with Teatseal and it provided a pointed indication of just how severe the infections had been.
“Of that 60, the 30 untreated ended up with a 30% infection rate, against only a couple in the treated group, it proved pretty definitively how effective the Teatseal had been.”
Since then Tim has made it practice to administer Teatseal every winter pre-calving to all his heifers.
“With seven to eight heifers calving every day, it was simply too much stress and time having to treat them each time they came in infected.”
Tim believes the problems are specific to his heifers because they are well fed right up to calving, and he is committed to having well fed, well grown stock.
“We had been told perhaps we should cut back on their intake leading up to calving, but you want to have them hit the ground running, ready to milk well, and doing that would not achieve that. It’s almost against my religion to under feed cows.”
He has been convinced enough using Teatseal to host a workshop last winter on administering heifers, alongside Hokitika Vets. The workshop gave farmers an opportunity to administer Teatseal to Tim’s heifers. He hosted the day in mid July, three weeks before calving starts.
“Guys here on the day were surprised just how easy and how quiet the heifers were. When you think about it, they are not swollen and sore like they are at calving, they are more relaxed and happy to be lined up.”
The added bonus for Tim is the peace of mind knowing he will have another line of quality heifers with minimal mastitis problems over the coming weeks and months.
- Enjoys having well grown heifers and would not compromise by underfeeding leading up to calving – Teatseal enables him to fully feed right up to calving time, no compromise.
- It was the time that really put stress on over spring, simply do not have it to be stripping and treating infected heifers.
A milking plant vacuum level higher than it should be helped create an on-going mastitis problem for David Dean in his first year managing his family’s Silverdene Farm, near Mercer, North Waikato, three seasons ago. With infection rates up to 25% through the herd in that first year, David's problems were heightened by the use of a feed pad for holding cows on over particularly wet weather in winter, adding an environmental bacterial challenge to mastitis levels.
The result was the 600 head herd never dropped below a BMSCC of 200,000 all year, and was running around the 300,000 mark for much of the last third of the season.
This impacted on David's ability to milk all the herd as long as he would have liked, without risking a BMSCC grade.
By the start of his second season when he commenced share milking he had sorted the vacuum problem. However its legacy was a BMSCC over 300,000 at drying off and starting his first season with a herd already less than ideal. To try and start with a lower subclinical infection rate he followed the advice of his veterinarian Jason Fayers of Franklin Vets. Jason recommended the use of a combination dry cow therapy, using selective antibiotic dry cow treatment in conjunction with Teatseal.
Cows with SCCs in excess of 800,000 were targeted with heavy duty Orbenin Enduro plus Teatseal, while those below were administered Orbenin DC with Teatseal.
David administered the Teatseal after the dry cow antibiotics himself, taking time to ensure hygiene was a priority, and not rushing the process.
Having treated the milking cows for two seasons now, he is impressed with the results.
Last spring kicked off on a far more positive note, with the mixed age milkers only recording single figure infection numbers, and a BMSCC that sat around the 130,000 mark for much of the season.
Vet records reveal 113 mastitis incidences from calving to the end of September for the 2009/10 season, compared to almost twice that number the year before. This season the results are even more positive, with only 28 cases recorded to mid-November.
David is confident a decision to treat heifers pre-calving with Teatseal early next season will lower the figures even further.
At the end of the season the lower BMSCC meant David had far greater flexibility over drying off decisions, determined by cow condition rather than creeping BMSCCs, which had topped out over 300,000 before using the Teatseal combination therapy in the 2009/10 season.
"I would prefer to invest in something that will save you time at the time of year when you are short of it, which is spring. Using Teatseal definitely achieved that, even if it did involve some extra cost at drying off."
Koryn Smith & Michael Roberts
Taking a management job on a highly stocked 330 cow property with critical mastitis problems, farm managers Koryn Smith and Dion Dobson admit they did wonder what they had let themselves in for.
Farm owner Michael Roberts had cautioned his new managers Koryn Smith and Dion Dobson about the on going problems he had faced over the past seven years dealing with a mastitis infection rate at times as high as 50% in spring time.
"I was simply finding that I was not having the time to deal with all the usual stuff over spring, the mastitis was driving us crazy," says Michael. This was despite having a herd in the top 5% nationally for BW and PW.
Working with his veterinarian Tony Bewick of Taranaki Vet Centre at Hawera, the cause has been isolated to be entirely environmental on the highly stocked 330 cow Hawera property.
"I figured what have I got to lose, given we were spending around $4000 a year on antibiotic injectables."
Michael ultimately decided to also treat the 200 mixed age milkers with combination antibiotic and Teatseal at drying off.
The outcome set the season off well for Koryn and Dion, and provided Michael with a welcome reminder about how enjoyable dairying can be after seasons stressing over mastitis.
"I would have typically been dealing with up to 75 cows rowed up at the end of milking requiring a jab with antibiotics, literally three rows," says Michael.
The Teatseal use set the herd up with a clean slate for the start of the season, and will help make culling decisions easier for Koryn and Dion. Based on past infection rates as high as 50%, allowing for the cost of Teatseal the cost:benefit was well in Teatseal's favour.
Koryn started thinking about options for dealing with the heifer problem before the season started, and attended a seminar on Teatsealing heifers.
"The use of Teatseal on heifers was appealing – it seemed to be a way of protecting the high BW young stock before they were exposed to any infection, it was a way to start to cut the infection in half for this herd." Michael could see the cost effectiveness of treatment when he was spending several thousand dollars a year on injectable antibiotic.
The herd's spring veterinary records reveal only four heifers protected by Teatseal contracted mastitis out of the 134 replacements, a fraction of the 40% that had been contracting it in past years. Similarly in the mixed age herd that was treated with combination, only four cows came in with mastitis over calving.
"To put 130 heifers into the herd is a large proportion, and it was good to be able to protect them and not put those high BW animals at risk, right from the start of their milking life," says Koryn.
Administering Teatseal to the heifers proved relatively easy, with Taranaki Vet technicians lending a helping hand to ensure it was administered hygienically.
The Teatseal was administered 14 days prior to calving, and once calved Koryn and Dion were careful to strip out any remaining Teatseal prior to milking. Anything missed was picked up by the milk filter, making it hassle free.
As it approaches the half way mark for the season the herd sits on an average BMSCC of only 70,000, a sharp contrast to the usual post spring level that has been as high as 250,000.
Michael has no hesitation about using Teatseal next season.
"Hell yes, it is part of our regime now, I couldn’t afford not to use it. To take it away, you not only have the problems, but also unhappy staff and all the stress again."
Major mastitis problems through his 1500 cow herd in 2008 prompted Emlyn Francis to get it sorted out for 2009. Mastitis problems had made that year a tough one, with two thirds of heifers recording clinical mastitis at calving and around 20% of the mixed age cows through that spring's wet, muddy conditions. Taking advice from the North Canterbury Vet clinic Emlyn decided to go all the way with Teatseal combination treatment on the mixed age cows, and pre-calving Teatseal treatment on his 400 heifers.
"After dealing with a mastitis herd that consisted of up to 200 cows at times we decided there had to be a solution." It had proved not only a tough year, but also an expensive one, with $20,000 going on mastitis antibiotics over August-September alone. Under this spring's challenging conditions the results speak for themselves.
"You could count on one hand the number of heifers we had come in with mastitis this year, after using Teatseal on 400 of them." Similarly for the mixed age cows, a mere handful also presented with mastitis at calving.
He reports "no real dramas" administering the Teatseal to the heifers pre calving, taking it quietly with them through the rotary the 400 were dealt with in around five hours, thanks also to the quick, capable technicians from North Canterbury Vets.
"They were far quicker than we would have been on our own, and we had no problems with infections afterwards."
For the mixed age cows treatment consisted of either a combination using dry cow antibiotic and Teatseal or for cows with a SCC under 120,000, Teatseal alone.
Cost-wise Emlyn has found the Teatseal component of treatment far from an "extra" when balanced against the antibiotics, time and milk saved by not having to treat such significant numbers of cows at calving.
"The big win using Teatseal for us has been the reduction in that spring mastitis problem, particularly this spring when conditions were very challenging, to have such a small number infected is just excellent." He, and his staff appreciate the huge reduction in time spent in the dairy.
"Milking the mastitis herd took longer than the main herd over spring, plus there was always that risk of putting milk into the vat with antibiotics in it."
Back in autumn using Teatseal at drying off also gave him peace of mind around any risk of early winter infections.
"You could move the cows from milking to maintenance straight onto a crop, without worrying about milk leakage and any infection risk."
Now Teatseal forms a key part of Emlyn’s mastitis management plan, providing him with a proactive means of getting a new lactation off without the stress, and being able to manage drying off without compromising udder health.
"It is just something we do every year now."
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