The largest dairy farm in Latvia improves milk sales by €3,000/day simply by addressing mastitis and udder health issues.
When dairy farm manager Andris Krastiņš first started on as dairy farm manager at Latvian farm Agrofirma Tērvete in 2015, he had a huge task ahead of him. Somatic cell counts were worryingly high and chronic infection was a serious problem. In the past year, though, significant improvements have been made. Those changes are improving herd health – and the farm’s bottom line. Andris Krastiņš explains.
Established in 2012, Agrofirma Tērvete is a modern diversified farm enterprise that includes crop and biogas production, horse breeding, food retail and catering, and dairy farming. The farm employs 190 workers, and has a working area of nearly 3,000 hectares.
Agrofirma Tērvete is home to Latvia’s largest dairy farm. The farm is designed with GEA technology and employs automatic ventilation, soft bedding with mattresses, and a separate milking space for cows with calves. The milking parlour provides up to 80 places in an automatic milking rotary system. Farm capacity is 3,300 dairy cows, but currently they only milk 1,980.
In an honest and forthright conversation, Krastiņš admitted, though, that the farm was struggling with serious health issues. In January of 2018, SCC counts averaged 588,000 with 41.8 per cent of the herd at greater than 200,000 SCC. At that time, 22.4 per cent were dealing with chronic infection (including Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus), and lactation new infection rate was 23.2 per cent. Needless to say, Krastiņš had his work cut out.
One year later, those numbers have dropped significantly. At last recording in January 2019, herd SCC was 260,000 and just 21.6 per cent of the herd measured over 200,000. Chronic infection rates were down too (from 22.4 per cent to 13.1 per cent), and lactation new infection rate dropped from 23.2 per cent to 9.7 per cent.
Watching the numbers fall alarming to acceptable levels was rewarding, but getting there was hard work. To get to where the farm is today Krastiņš had to evaluate everything from milking routine and on-farm training, to equipment and bedding.
When he first started at the farm in 2015, the cows lay on loose, straw bedding. Research has shown, though, that unless well managed, a higher risk of mastitis occurs in straw bedding. Krastiņš switched to green bedding from the bio-digester and increased cleaning frequency.
In the summertime (April to November), he puts green bedding made from biodigested manure on top of mattresses, but in
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