Teat-sealing heifers slashes mastitis rates

By Stephen Cooke

ROB AND Jan Mortlock have all but eliminated mastitis in their heifers after taking part in a teat- sealing trial.

The Mortlocks, who milk 850 head at Yanakie in south Gippsland, teat-sealed 150 heifers last year and 118 this year and recorded one case of mastitis.

They plan to teat-seal 270 next year and 350 the following year.

“We have teat-sealed cows before but not heifers,” Mr Mortlock said. “It proves it’s worth doing.”

The teat-sealing trial was run by Zoetis, manufacturer of Teatseal, with the Tarwin Veterinary Group and other clinics in Victoria and Tasmania.

The field trial involved 16 herds and 3555 heifers.

A case of mastitis has been costed at $200/head by the Tarwin Veterinary Group and heifers can lose a quarter for their entire life even if they catch the mastitis early. The cost of teat-sealing is $24/heifer.

New Zealand farmers have been teat-sealing heifers for years and the Tarwin Veterinary Group had a trailer built in New Zealand specifically to make teat-sealing easier.

It replicates a herringbone design and fits five well-grown heifers at a time. The business has

been teat sealing for one-and-a-half years.

“Research over the last 10 years has shown teat-sealing heifers has worked but no-one wanted to do it. Heifers were too small to put in the dairy,” vet David Lemchens said.

It requires three or four people doing yard work to get the heifers in, then one vet and three vet nurses undertake the procedure. They can do 450 in a day.

The trailer is ideal for outblocks, where heifers are traditionally run with few facilities. Heifers are teat-sealed two months before calving.

“Heifers take longer to calve so they are up and down in the mud,” Dr Lemchens said.

He said one farmer had 160 heifers and due to a logistical problem could only have half teat-sealed.

“Twenty-five per cent of the non-teat-sealed heifers later suffered from mastitis.

In the teat-sealed mob, one heifer received it in one quarter.”

Mr Mortlock was an immediate convert to teat sealing.

“If you save 10 per cent of heifers from getting mastitis, you’re streets in front in future,” he said.

“We had at least 10 per cent getting mastitis so it pays for itself. An animal milking at 80 per cent of its potential is not making money.”