By Tom Collins
SALFORD — An Oxford County farmer with a sub-30,000 somatic cell count credits switching to sand bedding in bringing the SCC number down.
According to Lactanet (formerly CanWest DHI), Legendairy Holsteins, owned by Matt and Neil Stoop at Salford, had an average SCC of 29,000 in 2019. That’s the lowest since the company started publishing the province’s best SCC scores in 2012. The previous lowest was 34,000 in 2014 by Edgar and Ramona Kaelin in Russell County. Every other year, the lowest score has ranged from 42,000 to 50,000.
Twenty years ago, the Stoops installed a straw pack-bedding system. Straw was a cent and a half per pound at the time, so the system was the economical way to go. However, straw prices started rising, and by 2015, the bedding was no longer cost efficient. Add to that the somatic cell count was never below 200,000 and would sometimes get as high as 400,000, and something needed to change.
After a year of trying a peat moss pack-bedding system that didn’t work, the father and son duo switched the barn to a sand-bedded freestall.
“I’m a huge believer in sand as, by far, the best option for bedding for cow comfort and cow health,” Matt Stoop said. “The benefits in cow health far outweigh the negatives (of sand).”
To also reduce the SCC score, high chronic cows were culled. The Stoops now milk 22-25 cows on 32 kilos of quota. The score has dropped so low that the cows no longer need to be dry treated and the highest cow has a score of 63,000.
“It almost started to worry us a bit, because if we ever get a case of mastitis or something goes through here, the cows (are) going to have no immunity left,” Stoop said, adding that he doesn’t breed for SCC. “It’s not something we focus on genetically. I always thought it was more management than genetics.”
Of the top 87 Ontario herds for lowest somatic cell count (herds at or below 100,000), only six were milked three times a day and only eight were on robots.