You must be kidding! Lab Tests for dairy animals?

You read it right. Conducting tests for diagnostics is an important part of running a dairy farm successfully. With the increase in the types of diseases that affect animals and humans it has become very important to monitor the health status of dairy animals. Early detection of health problems will help you to take corrective action in the early stages of the problem. This will help in getting an early recovery of the animal. It will also help you reduce the use of medicines and prevent animals from getting resistant to antibiotics. When animals become resistant to antibiotics, it worsens their health problem.

Whenever the animals in your farm get sick while doing dairy business, you get treatment done through veterinary doctors. In dairy animals , sometimes the severity of the illness is high. It takes time for the animals to recover. During this period milk production falls. Occasionally, animals are at risk of dying due to severe illness. Therefore, it is important for veterinarians to help diagnose the disease at such times. Some laboratory tests make it easier and faster for animal doctors to treat the animals. This helps your animals get better quickly. Lets learn about five different tests that will be useful in your dairy farm.

Test for cow dung for parasites in dairy farming

Testing dung for parasites

As a part of routine in every dairy farm, at every 2.5 to 3 months intervals parasitological examination of fecal matter or dung should be carried out. Parasites inside the body always compete with nutrition of dairy animals. Apart from roundworms and tape worms, there are some other kinds of endo parasites which are found inside the body of dairy animals. They are liver flukes and schistosomes, eye worms, heart worms etc.

Presence of such parasites in dairy animals reduces milk production due to depressed body growth, reduced appetite and poor feed conversion ratio. Severity of the disease depends on the type of the parasite or the numbers of parasites involved. Calf mortality due to diarrhea is a common concern in dairy farming. Mortality in the first year of life is often very high due to infection by parasites.

Test for sub-clinical mastitis

Milk yield decreases in cows with subclinical mastitis. Subclinical mastitis is infection of the udder in dairy animals. In this the animal does not show any symptom other than loss of milk production. You will not see any swelling in the udder, fever etc but the milk production will go down. Microorganisms and white blood cells or somatic cells that fight infections are found in high numbers in milk. A somatic cell count (SCC) greater than 200,000 cells/ml indicates the presence of subclinical mastitis.

The loss of milk from inflammation is directly proportional to the individual cow SCC. As SCC rises, milk production decreases. California Mastitis Test is done to detect sub-clinical mastitis. Readymade kit and reagents are available to perform this test in the farm. Test for SCC are also done in laboratory using calibrated tubes or demonstration of cells on stained smears .

Testing the water

Dairy animals consume upto 5 litres of water for every litre of milk produced. Providing insufficient water or water of poor quality to dairy cattle can limit milk production and growth, and can cause health problems. Water should be tested for TDS (Total dissolvable solids), pH and pollutants. Drinking water with less than 1,000 milligrams per liter (mg/L) of TDS is ideal for dairy cows.

Acidic water with a pH less than 5.1 may increase problems related to chronic or mild acidosis while water with a pH over 9.0 may result in problems related to chronic or mild alkalosis. The water for dairy animals should be checked yearly for coliforms, pH, nitrate and nitrites, and total bacteria. Pollutants like iron, manganese and hydrogen sulfide, cause problems in dairy animals. These pollutants cause tastes or odors that result in reduced water intake and milk production.

Tests for feed and fodder

Providing quality feed and fodder to our precious animals your responsibility as a dairy farmer. Quality of feed and feed ingredients plays an important role in the health and production performance of the dairy animals. And this directly plays an important role in whether the dairy farmer makes profits or losses. When you are going to change the feed or ingredients, the composition of feed and quality of feed should be analyzed.

You should take samples randomly from various parts of feed or fodder batches and collect them in plastic bags , seal them and transport to feed analysis lab. Protein, fat, carbohydrates, moisture, total ash, Acid detergent fibers or ADF, Neutral Detergent Fibres or NDF, Dry matter, calcium, phosphorus etc are determined through these tests in the lab. 

Test for brucellosis in dairy farms

Brucellosis leads to loss in milk production, abortion or death of calf in the last trimester, retention of placenta, reduced fertility and even mastitis. This is a disease that gets transmitted to humans from consumption of raw milk of infected animal or through contact with uterine discharges. Testing of brucellosis disease is a must if you find that in the last three months of pregnancy there is evidence of an abortion in your herd of dairy animals.

You should also test for brucellosis once before buying new animals. You need to check if the disease is spreading after the introduction of new dairy animals in your farm. You must also check if the disease is spreading from dogs, flies, wild birds, etc. Since the disease is likely to transmit from animals to humans, it is important to examine the animals that show the symptoms of the illness, and then treat the animals separately.

If you want to maintain good health of your dairy animals you will need to adopt scientific management practices which includes continuous monitoring of animal health and milk production. For controlling diseases in your farm you have to focus on prevention of diseases. For this you will need to diagnose the problems early and get the veterinary doctor to treat your animals on time. Often in the early stages of any health problem it helps is you provide the correct nutrition or change your management style. These changes help in stopping the spread of the disease. All the tests mentioned above can be carried out at very low costs. Such tests will help you in reducing the use of medicines for your dairy animals and ultimately reduction in costs.

To learn more on scientific dairy farming practices CLICK HERE