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It is not unusual to hear a dairyman say: “We were doing OK with our herd until we bought in new cows. Then we got hit with __x__ and we’ve been trying to dig out of trouble ever since.” That “x” is often filled in with BVD, Staph Aureus or ycoplasm mastitis, hairy heel warts, or Johnes Disease.
If you are maintaining or expanding a dairy herd, you must make decisions on selecting and purchasing dairy cattle, and you too are vulnerable to buying in disease.
In the April 08 issue of Udder Topics, The National Mastitis Council posts a summary of suggestions Herman Barkema , University of Calgary, presented to NMC Annual Meeting in 2008 on smart Strategies to use to avoid buying disease. The following is a summary of the key points on strategies to avoid bring udder infection in to your herd. Go to
www.nmconline.org for full text. 

1: Be selective on where you choose to
purchase replacements. Set standards to gauge the biosecurity risks of buying replacements from a herd of origin. Look for these traits in the herd:
• Herd SCC rolling average of less than 200,000 for at least one year
• Records available on individual cow SCC reported bimonthly for the previous six months
• Herd should provide information on pathogens present on farm
• Herd should be BVD-free or vaccinated
• Herd must not have cows with severe teat lesions
• Owner must be honest and willing to give you all this information

2: Be sure that the cows you are considering purchasing meet these standards:
• Cow must never have exceeded 200,000 SCC in her life
• Cow should have at least 3 most recent SCC in current lactation under 100,000
• Cow should have been given dry cow treatment if being offered for sale in early lactation

3: Once you purchase the new cow(s), take these actions before them in your herd:
• Examine udder, teats and milk UPON ARRIVAL to your farm.
• If replacements are lactating, check CMT for 3 consecutive days
• Milk the new replacements last until all CMT tests are negative for these 3 consecutive days
• Send cows back to vendor if udder health abnormalities are found with 2 weeks of purchase (you’ll have to have this part of the purchase agreement).

Hopefully these points will give you the encouragement to be selective about what you purchase. Cows are expensive, and no one wants to throw money away on an infected animal, or worse yet, bring infection to your herd and thus cause even more financial stress.

You are the gatekeeper to your herd’s health. Be smart, set standards, and stick to your standards.
Again for full text on the original article summarized here, and for much good information on udder health, go the National Mastitis Council website at

Adapted from the following resource: "Be Smart When Buying Dairy Cows for your Herd." Chris Mondak, ISU Extension – NW Iowa

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