January 2019 Monthly Management

TBC quality, colostrum quality, cubicle lime, spring grass & fertilizer

25 January 2019

TBC Quality Issues

Some milk suppliers have encountered problems with persistently high TBC readings recently. Many of these readings are above the limit of 50,000 cells/ml however, no evident signs of residues or bacterial growth are found on the milking equipment or bulk tank.

Occasionally, a biofilm can form in the milking machine lines. This biofilm is very difficult to identify but it will contribute to high bacterial counts on subsequent milkings.

The following wash routine should be implemented in order to lower these abnormal TBC readings:


  1. After milking is complete, drain milk and rinse the milk line with lukewarm water.
  2. Circulate with hot detergent for 10 minutes.
  3. Rinse the plant with cold water


  1. After milking is complete, drain milk and rinse the milk line with lukewarm water.
  2. Circulate with warm descaler for 10 minutes (NB do not use very hot water)
  3. Rinse the plant with cold water

Repeat this routine for two days and resume normal wash routine afterwards.

Winter Layoff TBC Management

For spring calving herds, some TBC issues can arise in the first collections following a winter layoff. To avoid high TBC readings,it is recommended to carry out a weekly hot wash on both the milking machine and bulk tank using the usual detergent sterilizer. By doing this, good hygiene is maintained and bacterial growth is greatly inhibited over these weeks. Other important measures to be carried out at this time of year include:

  • Checking correct water temperature and volume.
  • Automatic washing systems and bulk tanks should be calibrated to ensure the correct amount of detergent and water are used.
  • Storage of detergents - products should be stored as directed on the label, otherwise, chlorine can evaporate from detergent, thus making the detergent ineffective. Some detergents can crystalize which can reduce cleaning effectiveness and may also block pumps.

Colostrum Quality

With calving season soon approaching, it is worth reminding ourselves of the importance of colostrum. When born, the calf’s immune system is not fully developed, and the calf depends on the immunity provided by the antibodies in colostrum for protection against disease. The level of antibodies is highest in the first milking and drops significantly in the second and third milking.

Milking Number
1 2 3 11
Colostrum Transition milk Whole milk
Total Solids, % 23.9 17.9 14.1 12.5
Fat, % 6.7 5.4 3.9 3.9
Protein, % 14 8.4 5.1 3.1
Antibodies, % 6 4.2 2.4 0.09
Minerals, % 1.11 0.95 0.87 0.74
Vitamin, ug/dL 295 190 113 31

Antibodies are absorbed through the calf’s intestinal wall reduce dramatically over the first 24 hours of life. Therefore, it is vital that all new born calves receive colostrum shortly after birth.

Time Ig Absorption in the Calf
Within 2 Hours Highest
After 6 hours Reduced by 50%
After 12 hours Reduced by 75%

The 1,2,3 rule should always apply – first milking, within 2 hours and 3 litres to be fed.

For more information on calf health go to the Spring Dairy Seminar with calf expert Vet Martin Kavanagh on Wednesday 23rd January in Skibbereen mart @8pm.

Cubicle Lime – What’s the Difference?

Having clean, dry cubicles for dairy stock is a critical factor in maintaining good hygienic conditions and reducing mastitis risk. Cubicle lime provides the best option in ensuring a clean environment exists – dry conditions and high pH in order inhibit bacterial growth.
An array of different cubical lime products are available on the market, however, these can be broken down in 4 different categories.

Standard calcium carbonate cubicle lime - can be grey/white in colour depending on manufacturer. The pH range of these products is between 7.5 – 8.5. A high pH is important as alkaline conditions present a better control of bacteria on the cubicle bed. These products also have a good moisture soaking ability.

Example: Farmcal Cubicle Lime, Nutribio Cubical Lime

Hydrated Lime – High pH of 12.5 approx. which makes it more effective on killing bacteria on the cubicle bed however, it can have a hard, negative effect on teat ends.

Example: White Rhino Hydrated Lime

Calcium carbonate/hydrated lime blend – A mix of standard cubicle lime and hydrated lime. Most blends usually compromise of between 10% – 30% of hydrated lime with standard cubicle lime. The 10% blend is often found to be as effective as the higher 30% hydrated blend on killing bacteria but is not as hard on teats. These blends/mixes have a high pH ranging from 8.5 to 12.5.

Example: Farmcal Cubicle lime + 10% Hydrated & Pine Oil (pH 12.5 approx)

Slurrycal is another high pH cubical lime blend but with a slurry conditioner added. This additive reduces agitation time of slurry with increased fertilizer value while having the same hygienic characteristics of other cubical lime blends.

Cubicle Disinfectants - Products like Stalosan F or Actisan are cubicle disinfectants that are designed to be used once in every 2 days on cubical beds. They have excellent sterilizing power and a good capacity to absorb water and ammonia. Very useful when dealing with an environmental mastitis problem on farm.

Spring Grass & Fertilizer

The mild weather this winter has brought growth and there are high covers of grass on farm. Where grass covers are not suitable for slurry, urea should be used at half bag / acre to maintain growth rates and keep the plant green. Keeping the plant green to the base will increase regrowth’s after grazing and will help grass survive any harder weather in the coming weeks.

The focus now turns to utilizing this beneficial growth as much as possible. Getting grass in to the milking cows diet has multiple benefits from boosting milk yield and milk protein, reducing silage consumption and production costs. Regardless of whether you measure grass or not every farm should use the Spring Rotation Planner (SRP). The SRP is a simple, efficient way to allocate grass each day from early February to early April. The SRP will vary from farm to farm depending on turnout (weather, calving pattern, soil type, etc...).

The basic aim of the SRP is to have 30% of the farm grazed by March 1st, 60% by Patrick’s day and 100% by the first week of April.

Date Range % of farm grazed at week end
1st February Start grazing
1st March 30% grazed
17th March 60% grazed
7th April approx Start 2nd rotation

The 30% of the farm grazed in February is key as this ground will have at least 35-40 days to re grow and have a reasonable cover of grass on it for the second rotation.

For the plan to be successful the following is required:

  • Stick to the planned area per day - Skipping ahead of the area planned will result in a short first rotation. This may lead to poorer utilization and low covers for the start of the second round.
  • Use a strip wire – Split paddocks into 12-hour blocks plus the any areas already grazed should be back fenced to avoid any unnecessary pasture damage.
  • On/Off grazing in wet weather - On/off grazing with 3 hours of grass access after each milking followed by rehousing is an excellent way to allocate grass and protect swards during difficult weather conditions.

If you require any assistance in completing a SRP contact Tim/Darren.