By Kirsi Niemelä, Technical Manager
In her doctoral thesis entitled, ”Replacement Decisions On Finnish Dairy Farms – Toward Better Economic Performance With Novel Technology And Sustainable Herds” (MTT Science 2013), Anna-Maija Heikkilä argues that it is more economic to treat a cow with mastitis rather than to replace her. The optimum culling age for a healthy cow is after the ninth month of the fifth lactation. Even if the animal has been treated for mastitis on 4 occasions, it may be still worthwhile keeping her in the herd.
The treatment costs depend on the stage of lactation in which the mastitis occurs. Obviously, the higher the milk yield at the time of mastitis the higher will be the treatment costs. On the other hand, one must take into account, the cost of replacing a pregnant cow.
A herd average culling age of 5 lactations is a high target. It cannot be alone by treating mastitis. The key factors in increasing the number of lactations are hygiene, immunity and body condition score. There is no point economizing when choosing the teat dip or in cleaning the stalls.
The same applies to micronutrients, vitamin supplements and ensuring sufficient energy intake in early lactation. Making small investments at the right time will help to avoid bigger costs in the future. A bit of good luck is also needed to keep contagious diseases and resistant bacteria away from the herd.