|Even at $10 milk, one case of clinical mastitis costs $120 to $145, depending on feed costs.
If you don't think you can afford to lower your herd's somatic cell count to 150,000 cells/ml, Earl Aalseth has news for you.
"Lowering a 1,000-cow herd's SCC average from 300,000 to 150,000 can potentially yield $1 million per year in net revenue, once you count up lost milk, drugs, reproductive failures, culls, lost milk from culls, dead cows and quality bonuses,” he says.
Aalseth is a dairy veterinarian based in Lake Stevens, Wash. His consulting business covers the country.
For one client, he recently tallied up the financial opportunity represented by a parlor plagued with chronic problems. The SCC in the herd, milking 1,200 cows, had climbed from just 150,000 to 350,000 in two years. Aalseth's total came to $812,000 on a 12-month basis, including:
- Lost milk production from the jump in SCC: $360,000.
- Pregnancy rates plummeted from a normal rate of 18% to nearly half that level: $254,000.
- Milk loss from culled mastitis cows: $106,000.
- Mastitis treatment costs and lost milk from treated cows: $36,000.
- Lost quality bonuses: $56,000.
"The lost bonuses are not worth much, not even 10% of the total costs,” Aalseth says. Most producers look at quality bonuses as a way to evaluate whether to push for lower cell counts, he adds. But they're missing much higher potential costs by not managing for low cell counts all along. For example, for every 100,000 rise in the cell count, you will add 1% of your herd to the hospital pen.
In a spreadsheet
developed by Dutch researchers Henk Hogeveen and Kirsten Huijps, the cost of a clinical case of mastitis is significant, even at $10/cwt. milk. They estimate that one clinical case of mastitis costs between $120 and $145, depending on feed costs. At $15/cwt. milk, those losses average $200/case.
Most producers don't equate high cell counts with lower reproduction. But a number of studies now show that once cell counts creep above 300,000 or so, pregnancy rates can drop to single digits, particularly in summer.
The extended days in milk, as cows struggle to conceive, are hidden costs, Aalseth says. But they can be deadly to a dairy in times when break-evens to cover feed costs climb from 35 lb. to 50 lb. or even 60 lb. of milk/cow/day. All of a sudden, those lower-producing cows, especially if they're open, become a financial drain on the dairy.
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