Production Pulse: Milk quality

A&L Laboratories introduces Quality Milk Program

A&L Laboratories is rolling out a Quality Milk Program to assist U.S. dairy operations in the quest for higher quality milk.

According to A&L Laboratories president and CEO Roger Beers, the program is designed to help producers meets or exceeds Pasteurized Milk Ordinance (PMO) standards and impending European Union dairy product import standards.

Beers said every dairy should implement a whole-farm approach quality milk team, including the farm’s veterinarian, nutritionist, milking team leader and other relevant employees, milking equipment dealer, chemical supplier, financier and a quality milk specialist.

When a farm elects to participate in A&L’s Quality Milk Program, an A&L quality milk specialist joins the farm’s team and works with team members to develop a results-oriented program. Steps in the program development include:

Establish quality goals — SCC, PI and SPC are metrics by which the program can be measured. Other useful metrics are Lab Pasteurized Count (LPC) and Coliform Count (E. coli).

• Examine current residue build-up on equipment —This assessment determines whether CIP is working properly. Amount and types of residue buildup give clues as to where problems are occurring and changes can be made to improve CIP performance.

• Evaluate housing/environment — Provide a clean, dry, comfortable and fly-free environment for calves, heifers and cows. Bedding additives can assist with sanitation by absorbing ammonia and moisture, drying the bedding and eliminating bacteria growth.

• Inspect and analyze CIP — Proper equipment cleaning involves a warm water rinse until water runs clear, followed by detergent rinse, acid wash and sanitizer. Proper water temperatures are crucial for CIP effectiveness and decrease the amount of cleaning products needed in the process. Water hardness and quality should also be evaluated so that proper amounts of cleaning products are used.

• Audit chemical product handling — Have an inventory control system in place with safety training for anyone handling chemical products.

• Evaluate teat health — Score teats regularly to benchmark and track health; look for high-quality teat dips that increase blood flow and prevent chapping and frostbite.

• Analyze milking machine performance — Ensure that the vacuum pump and regulator are working properly. Ensure that automatic takeoffs are set for proper milkout. Preventative maintenance should be performed every 1,000 to 1,200 hours.

• Perform a milking audit — Establish and supervise proper milking procedures.

To learn more, call (800) 225-3832 or visit

Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica: Consider on-farm mastitis culturing program

The tight dairy economy is forcing producers to take a close look at improving milk production levels and reducing treatment costs. Subclinical mastitis silently robs producers of more pounds of milk, while clinical mastitis causes a more obvious and direct impact on an operation, with milk discard during and after treatment, along with the cost of treatment.

One strategy that allows dairy producers to make better mastitis treatment decisions is to implement an on-farm milk culturing system.

“On-farm milk culturing is not for every dairy operation,” says Dr. Linda Tikofsky, Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, Inc., professional services veterinarian. “A farm needs to have a certain level of mastitis in the herd or a certain number of cows, to make the investment in equipment and training economically feasible.”

She adds that if a farm is only sporadically doing milk cultures it makes more economical sense to submit milk samples to their veterinarian or an outside lab.Tikofsky says there are three main reasons for dairy producers to put an on-farm milk culturing system in place:

  1. Treatment decision: On-farm culturing at the most basic level allows producers to determine if the pathogens causing the infection are gram positive or gram negative. On-farm culture results can drive decisions to use an intramammary antibiotic, select a specific drug that has greater effectiveness against the specific pathogen, or withhold antibiotic treatment and discard milk until the cow can naturally eliminate the infection.
  2. Timeliness: On-farm culturing can give a producer preliminary results within 24 hours. Samples collected and sent to an off-site laboratory may take five to seven days for a diagnosis. Faster results allow the producer to make more immediate decisions on treatment.
  3. Cost effectiveness: With targeted treatment, producers will see a better response to treatment of infections caused by gram positive pathogens like staphylococci and some environmental streps. A recent study looked at the cost effectiveness of using on-farm culturing to identify and treat only gram positive infections. The 189 cases, after accounting for all costs, resulted in a net income of about $3,342/month.1 Infections caused by gram negative pathogens have a high rate of spontaneous cure and most antibiotics have limited efficacy against these pathogens.2 With many cases of mastitis caused by gram negative pathogens, the cow will clear the infection on her own without antibiotics. Evaluation of numerous research studies have shown 50% to 60% of clinical milk samples would earn a “no treatment” decision because they are negative for bacteria or it is a gram negative pathogen.3

Before implementing an on-farm culturing system, Tikofsky says producers need to consider several factors. “Operations need to make the commitment to have a designated person to plate the milk and review the plates to give you the right information,” says Tikofsky. “You need to train that person and everyone that collects samples to make sure it is done right.”

Other considerations include providing a clean environment to culture the samples and review plates to prevent contamination, investing in the right equipment including an incubator and plates, and finally, a proper disposal area for pathogenic materials.

“The bottom line is that with the information provided by on-farm culturing, producers can save money and increase the odds of a full cure on first treatment,” says Tikofsky. “If you treat right the first time, then the affected cow is back in the tank quicker and you save on milk discard.”

Tikofsky recommends that dairy producers visit with their consulting veterinarian about the advantages and implications of implementing an on-farm culturing system.

For more information, visit:


1Pol M, Bearzi C, Maito J, Chaves J. On-farm culture: characteristics of the test in Proceedings. 48th Ann National Mastitis Council Meet 2009.
2Pyorala SH, Pyorala EO. Efficacy of parenteral administration of three antimicrobial agents in treatment of clinical mastitis in lactating cows: 487 cases (1989-1995). J Am Vet Med Assoc 1998;2121:407-412.
3Ruegg P, Godden S, Lago A, Bey R, Leslie K. On-farm culturing for better milk quality in Proceedings. Western Dairy Mgt Conf, 2010, 156.

Pfizer Animal Health: Extended therapy reduces chance of mastitis relapse

Mastitis is a common and pricey disease on the dairy operation, costing nearly $200 per clinical case due to decreased milk production, lower milk quality premiums, treatment expenses and increased culling and death.1 The cost and inconvenience of mastitis is further magnified if a treated cow relapses with a recurring infection.

“There is nothing more frustrating than having to re-treat a cow for mastitis,” says Dan Funke, quality milk manager for Pfizer Animal Health. “Mastitis therapy is an investment in labor, treatment costs and milk discard, and treatment decisions must be made in the best interest of the animal’s health and well-being. Dairy producers should utilize the course of treatment that offers the best chance of a complete cure the first time.”

Funke offers tips for appropriately treating mastitis for a successful outcome:

  • Consult your veterinarian: Work with your veterinarian to determine the appropriate mastitis therapy and duration of treatment to help achieve a bacteriological cure, thereby eliminating the infection, not just the symptoms. An extended-therapy protocol — defined as administering intramammary treatment for two to eight days — often can increase the likelihood of a complete cure. Only two products on the market are labeled for and demonstrated effective with extended therapy.
  • Tailor treatment: Treatment protocols should be based on the cow’s treatment history; length of the infection; and cow age, health status and lactation stage. It’s also important to identify the pathogen causing the mastitis infection. With this information, your veterinarian can prescribe the appropriate mastitis product and protocol. Using a product labeled for extended therapy, your veterinarian can tailor treatment duration to the individual case. For example, eight days of treatment may be recommended for hard-to-kill mastitis pathogens.
  • Complete treatment protocol: Dairy producers often discontinue treatment when milk returns to normal and clinical signs of the infection subside. Be sure to complete the prescribed treatment regimen to help ensure that the infection is eliminated.

Extended therapy can help you properly treat the cow the first time, reducing the chance of relapse and cost of treatment failure. It is the best thing we can do for the cow, and the bottom line.

For more information on ways to improve your milk quality, visit