In today’s dairy industry, adequate feed hygiene is imperative. There are lots of product options available with many targeted toward directly controlling pathogens or supporting immune function so cows are more resilient. With all the product options out there, it is easy to forget about the power that management decisions can have on the daily pathogen loads cows face.
On a recent farm visit to sample feed and feces for clostridia and other pathogens, it was noticed that the feed alleys were a little narrow, resulting in significant portions of the feed bunk being driven over by the TMR mixer. The feed wasn’t visibly muddy, but the tread marks were clear. In addition to Papillon’s normal sampling, samples were collected from several spots along each bunk, including both undisturbed feed and from where it had been driven over. The results were compelling, so a second set of samples was collected on the next visit to the dairy to further explore. As you can see in the table below, the TMR that was driven over had 2 to 7 times more total clostridia in all 5 TMRs that were tested. Clostridia perfringens was less prevalent on the dairy, but levels were increased in 4 of the 5 TMRs as well.
In this case, effective pathogen control products could certainly help alleviate the pressure cows may face if they consume the driven-over feed, but simply fine-tuning feed delivery would likely have a greater impact at a fraction of the cost. This serves as a valuable reminder to always look at what the cows and their environment are telling us, as well as what the lab can tell us, when it comes to nutrition, pathogens, and management.
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