“Where there’s mud, there’s money,” is the old farming adage but I’m a bit of a contrarian. Where there’s too much mud, there’s also lameness and mastitis.
Muddy tracks to and from the dairy hit cows with a double whammy: they soften the hoof and then coat it with the perfect breeding ground for nasty bugs. It’s heart-breaking to see a cow hobble along, so we rest lame cows and, if their hoofs become infected, treat them with antibiotics.
Mud also contributes to mastitis, a painful infection that afflicts cows and women alike. Dairy farmers have been tackling mastitis for decades from practically every angle. We can choose sires based on the resistance of their daughters to mastitis, have learned that being quiet around cows makes them less prone to infection and developed new detection and treatment techniques. We know exactly how much mastitis is in the herd: the milk processors give us daily test results as part of their stringent milk quality standards and if our milk shows evidence of too much mastitis, we are paid less.
Ours aren’t bad but they could be better. One 400 metre section in particular has the fences set too far back from the gravel of the track and some cows like to walk along the sides, which quickly turn to slosh. Today, we’re moving the fences in. It’s a pretty simple job that should save us a lot of grief when winter comes.