Gippsland Portal

Department of Primary Industries:
Buyer Beware

Avoid buying a replacement cow with a mastitis history. One of the most common ways to introduce cow-associated mastitis bacteria into a herd is in the udders of newly purchased cattle.

By Department of Primary Industries - 27th March 2003 - Back to News

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Avoid buying a replacement cow with a mastitis history. One of the most common ways to introduce cow-associated mastitis bacteria into a herd is in the udders of newly purchased cattle. Before introducing cows into a herd, obtain as much information as possible about the mastitis status of the farm of origin.

Bulk milk cell count records, individual cell counts, and records of clinical cases are helpful in assessing the potential risk new cows pose to the existing herd. Cattle should not be purchased from vendors who are unwilling or unable to provide this information.

Older cows are more likely to carry mastitis than younger cows. If possible, it is preferable to buy unmilked heifers because they are much less likely to be carrying any of the major bacteria that cause mastitis.

If you are buying cows, ensure they come from herds with Bulk Milk Cell Counts below 200,000 cells/mL, and have individual cell counts below 250,000 cells/mL. As an added precaution it is a good idea to milk the new cows last until you are confident they are free from mastitis.

Donít forget to obtain the Dry Cow Treatment details for dry cows you purchase, so you know the correct withholding periods to avoid antibiotic residues. If you are unsure, contact your dairy company to organise screening tests.

For more information about Countdown Downunder contact Carol Bradshaw at DPI Ellinbank on 56242257.


Sue Hides, Senior Veterinary Officer, Gippsland

As the pasture feed shortage continues, particularly on dry country in some areas of Gippsland, some cattle are loosing body condition. Action should be taken now with these cattle to avoid losses and to maintain minimum welfare standards.

Heavily pregnant cows on poor pasture are at greatest risk, a large foetus and a rumen full of poor quality feed may give the cow a rotund appearance, however prominent rib and back bones indicate that there is little or no condition on the cow. If these cows are not fed well they will develop pregnancy toxaemia, become weak, wonít be able to get up and will die.

If pasture feed is running out action must be taken. Stock must be either fed, agisted onto country with feed or sold. Cattle cannot graze pasture below 2.5 cm (1 inch) in height. Short pastures provide very little nutrition for cattle.

Good agistment is hard to find. If selling, off load any cows not in calf, or nearing the end of their breeding life or non-breeding stock such as steers. The rest must be supplementary fed with hay, silage or cereal grains or pellets.

Hay is currently expensive and hard to obtain and quality can be variable. If there is some green pick from pasture, generally as a rough guide, a small 25 kg square bale of good quality hay per day would be sufficient to supplement three to four cows in the last three months of pregnancy. If hay is the sole diet of a late pregnant cow, the intake required to satisfy energy needs exceeds maximum possible rumen capacity and a more energy dense feed, like grain or pellets, should also be provided.

If feeding grain or pellets, start off by feeding O.5 kg grain per head per day and stay at this level until all cattle are eating it, then gradually increase the ration by 0.5 kg every second day until the desired feeding level is reached. A cow in the last three months of pregnancy would need approx 3.5 kg of grain per day and also access to roughage which could be provided by 3kg of hay.

Deciding how much and what to feed stock requires time, effort and research. It depends on the number and condition of the stock, their age, pregnancy status, pasture availability and cost, availability and quality of supplements. The help you think though this process an excellent publication on Drought Feeding and Management of Beef Cattle is available free of charge from Department of Primary Industry offices at Maffra 51470800, Bairnsdale 51 520600, Ellinbank 56242222 and Leongatha 56 629900. DPI Beef Industry Officers at Maffra, Ellinbank and Leongatha will also be able to assist you.


Effluent ponds in irrigation districts are designed to be emptied towards the end of the irrigation season. Now is the time to use your dairy effluent while the soils can soak up water and when irrigation water may still be available to mix it with.

It is good practice to have waste ponds empty at the start of winter so that effluent can be stored over the winter and spring months if they are wet. Many people were caught last year and there is still plenty of time for the same situation to develop this year.

If effluent can be diluted with irrigation water it can be spread over a greater area of the farm and have less impact on the pasture and farm channels. However, effluent should be managed so that run-off to the regional drains does not occur as it is rich in nutrients and may contain harmful microbes.

For advice on dairy effluent management contact Colin Waters or Barrie Bradshaw at DPI Ellinbank.


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