Farmers urged to take free milk test

Dairy farmers are being urged to take advantage of a free bulk tank test to get the best financial return on their worming programmes.

The test, which is funded by animal health company Norbrook, measures the level of antibodies to Ostertagia ostertagi in samples taken from the bulk tank. The sampling procedure is simple to undertake, the results are available within a week and reflect the level of exposure to these parasites within the adult milking herd.

Mark Pass from Beeston Animal Health in Cheshire, says his dairy customers have been benefiting from the tests for several years. He urges more farmers to take advantage of the free service:

“The bulk milk sample is an excellent tool for the farmer, SQP and vet because it provides scientific justification for investing in a wormer for the milking herd.

“The results do not always come back with a high count. In some cases there is a low count, meaning that no treatment is needed; some have a medium count where treatment may be beneficial in individual cows; while others have a high count and herds would see a really positive response from treatment.”

Mr Pass, who is a former winner of the annual Over the Counter SQP of the Year award, believes that the test helps ensure that treatments are not used if they are not needed and the rate of development of resistance is reduced.

“Ostertagia levels in some herds are high enough to impact milk production and fertility significantly, but gut worms rarely cause obvious clinical problems in adult dairy cattle. They may reduce appetite and the ability to digest forage, so there is a nutritional cost, but it is often a hidden cost.

“In my experience, the test allows us to decide whether a wormer would be beneficial and potentially increase milk yield.”

Recent studies have shown that appropriate worming can increase yield by around two litres per cow per day in some grazed herds.[1]

“My customers have regularly told me that they see a really positive difference after an eprinomectin pour-on treatment has been used. Both a financial benefit and an improvement in the general health of their animals is achieved: they glow.”

The bulk tank samples are best taken by a veterinary surgeon or SQP and the results can form the basis of a three-way discussion between the farmer, SQP and vet to ensure that any investment in worming treatment results in a good return, he adds.

Dairy farmers who would like to take advantage of the free tests being offered by Norbrook should contact their veterinary surgeon or SQP.

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