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  • Manage Your Manure: 5 Strategies to Beat High SCC

    Manage Your Manure: 5 Strategies to Beat High SCC

    Manure plays the biggest role when you consider the environmental factors affecting Bulk Tank SCC (BTSCC). Proper bedding is also critical to SCC management. The reason, of course, is the importance of good hygiene in avoiding mastitis.

    Poor manure management means dirty legs, which also means dirty udders and lots of places for bacteria to grow. It’s important not to wait until the spring thaw for problems to start appearing. Changing things now will help in the warmer months of the year.

    Here are 6 things you can change to manage BTSCC levels through the coming months.

    1. Change your manure storage

    Researchers from Colorado State University and the USDA found that dairy operations who composted their manure had a significantly fewer cows with an SCC over 400,000 cells/mL compared to those using an earth basin or lagoon storage.

    2. Change your water

    The same study also found that flushing the alley with fresh water instead of recycled water resulted in lower BTSCC. shockingly, using recycled water actually results in a higher proportion of cows with an SCC over 400,000 cell/mL compared to not flushing the alley at all. If you are currently using recycled water to flush your alleys, it may be time to reconsider.

    3. Add shade to grazing areas

    Increasing the amount of shade available to your cows improves cleanliness because it helps stop overcrowding. If cows crowd in specific spots of the paddock, waste accumulates and causes wet, dirty udders that are the perfect home for bacteria. More shade means more comfortable space to spread out.

    4. Increase your manure storage capacity

    Manure storage structures should have at least a 180-day capacity. This means that manure can be stored until the optimal time to apply it to crops. Manure should only be applied when there is vegetative growth to anchor it and prevent run off. For the same reason, you should avoid applying it in the winter or within 24 hours before or after rainfall.

    Remember, when calculating your manure storage capacity, make sure you take into account wasted feed and bedding that will be added to the storage structure, as well as any additional storm water it will collect.

    5. Consider which outwintering system is right for your herd

    There are several outwintering systems to choose from, including paddock rotation, sacrifice paddocks and bedded packs. The system you choose will likely be influenced by your farm location and climate.


    Paddock Rotation: this system distributes manure and urine evenly, preventing it from accumulating in one paddock. Urine nutrients evaporate or soak into the ground.

    In the spring, thawed urine can enter the soil or run off the surface, so it’s important to consider the lay of the land. Manure retains nutrients after freezing and doesn’t run off after thawing because it is generally anchored by vegetation. This causes it to decompose and cycle nutrients back into the pasture system.


    Sacrifice Paddocks: This is almost opposite to using paddock rotation. Cows are kept in the same paddock all winter. This compacts the ground and prevents manure and urine entering the soil. In the spring, this paddock has to be dragged, seeded and scraped.

    If it’s not properly maintained, this system has the potential to cause very high BTSCC. However, you can take advantage of sacrifice paddocks by strategically placing the sacrifice paddocks in areas of unwanted vegetative growth. You can also create mounds the prevent waste accumulation in the paddock itself and collect runoff in a lagoon.

    Bedded Packs: Housing your herd on bedded packs at night can help keep you BTSCC low. When properly managed, the composting process of a bedded pack destroys most bacteria that can cause SCC problems. In the spring, decomposed waste from the pack can be spread on fields. However, if the pack does not compost properly, the deep layers of material do not reach a high enough temperature to kill bacteria and can make BTSCC problems worse.

    These are just a few ways that you can improve your manure and BTSCC management. Every herd is different, so explore which methods work best for you and your cows.

    Would you like to increase your milk production? Contact us to find out how our somatic cell count devices can improve your milk quality and put more money back into your pocket. 

    Image Credit: Manure Storage Structure

    Bensen, A. F. (2012). Consider Deep Pack Barns for Cow Comfort and Manure Management. Retrieved from Cornell University Small Farms Program: http://smallfarms.cornell.edu/2012/04/20/consider-deep-pack-barns-for-cow-comfort-and-manure-management/

    Higgins, S., Schmidt, K., & Wightman, S. (2014). Lowering Somatic Cell Count with Best Management Practices. Retrieved from University of Kentucky: http://www2.ca.uky.edu/agcomm/pubs/AEN/AEN123/AEN123.pdf

    UW Madison. (1998). Outwintering dairy cattle: manure management issues (Research Brief #28). Retrieved from Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems: http://www.cias.wisc.edu/outwintering-dairy-cattle-manure-management-issues/

    Wenz, J. R., Jensen, S. M., Lombard, J. E., Wagner, B. A., & Dinsmore, R. P. (2007). Herd Management Practices and Their Association with Bulk Tank Somatic Cell Count on United States Dairy Operations. Journal of Dairy Science, 90(8), 3652-3659. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com.subzero.lib.uoguelph.ca/science/article/pii/S0022030207718210?np=y

    About the Author

    Anna Schwanke is an undergraduate student at the University of Guelph, Ontario. She is responsible for researching and writing about a wide variety of topics related to dairy cow welfare and management for Dairy Quality Inc. The 10 years she spent living in Australia, as well as her love of travelling, give her a firsthand viewpoint of issues facing the international dairy community. She plans to graduate from the University’s College of Physical & Engineering Science in 2019 and pursue a career in the Life Sciences or Agriculture industry.

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