Most dairy farms have problems with mastitis, but with a bit more attention to milk let down just before attaching the clusters, not only has former Gold Cup winner, Simon Bugler, witnessed reduced levels of the disease, but also improved cow health and conception rates.

In previous years, the farm which is home 650 Holsteins on a three-times daily milking regime, saw mastitis levels in excess of 20 cases per 100, whereas now, with faster milk led down speeds, less than 10% of the herd suffers. Furthermore, there is less teat damage.

“Mastitis levels are in single figures every month, but then we have made some big changes – even since we won the award in 2016,” said Simon, a fourth generation farmer who manages a high yielding herd in Dorset.

“We changed the parlour to a 40:40 BouMatic rapid exit parlour, so we have 20 cows milking up each side which is split between two men. We also have a strict preparation routine at milking whereby the first 10 cows are sprayed with iodine and each teat fore milked to ensure maximum oxytocin let down. Teats are then dry wiped and the clusters put on. We are looking for high flow rates as early as possible and 50% milk let down in the first two minutes to reduce teat damage. The actually milking process should take 4-5minutes per cow,” he said.

Fore milking by hand may appear to be a fairly laborious task, when every cow and heifer has to be done, but it has been key to reducing disease levels and improving cell counts, which combined with numerous other management alterations to include teat scoring, has helped to increase overall yields.

Ten years ago, the business relied upon 330 milking cows on two separate units, but with the acquisition of more land, the herds were amalgamated and housed in the one unit.

The first improvements were seen when Simon changed the housing system to all year round housing and sand bedding.

“I believe fertility drives yield and we have been able to manage fertility better by moving the herd indoors and controlling the diet. With the cows inside at all times, the diet is consistent at all times and that is one of the main reasons we have been able to achieve the results we have.”

Pilsdon dairy was completed in 2010 which comprised sheds with good ventilation and light, wider passages and flood washing system. Rubber mats have also been put down on high traffic areas for increased grip.

“Rubber matting at the feed fence and LED lighting have increased intakes which in turn have improved milk yields by 5-7%."

Production is improving all the time too, as that all important Gold Cup qualifying year to September 2015 saw the herd achieve 11,260kg of milk at 3.56%BF and 3.1%P. This compares to rolling herd averages of 12,173kg of milk at 3.77%BF and 3.15%P now on a three times daily milking regime. Pregnancy and conception rates stand at 28% and 41%, respectively.

Cases of mastitis that year were 20 per 100 cows, with cell count runs at 111,000cells/ml and Bactoscan at 6. These figures have also mostly improved at 89,000cells/ml with a Bactoscan at 7. Calving index remains unchanged at 380days.

Not surprisingly, antibiotic use has also been slashed with 95% of the cows receiving teat sealant only at drying off.

The team at Pilsdon Dairy have certainly come a long way in the past 20 years, but they're not finished yet. Simon has high hopes to increase production further with the use of modern technology and genetics.

"We now need to identify the top end of our heifers through genomics to accelerate genetic gain and use other methods of technology such as activity tags to aid rumen activity, disease outset and the onset of heat. Improved genetics and increased milk yields are the future," concluded Simon.