Influence of somatic cell count in heifers on lifetime milk yield and disease management

The appropriate management of mastitis is of particular importance to the Irish dairy industry where there is considerable scope for herds to expand in anticipation of the abolition of European Union milk quotas in 2015. Subsequent price volatility is expected and producing quality milk with a low somatic cell count (SCC) will become even more crucial. Expansion of dairy herds requires a surplus of heifers with low milk SCC to maximise first lactation productivity and survival. However the likely impact of SCC in heifers on cumulative milk yield beyond the first lactation is unknown. The aim was to assess the impact of SCC during the first lactation on the lifetime milk production of cows in Irish dairy herds and to estimate potential savings through the control of mastitis in heifers.