Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Sunday 22 October 2017

Blanket dry cow therapy must be put under the microscope and tested

ESSENTIAL: Today’s modern cow can hardly protect herself well enough from modern challenges, and is at risk of fatal diseases if she does not get her two months of antibiotics for every 10 months of milking
ESSENTIAL: Today’s modern cow can hardly protect herself well enough from modern challenges, and is at risk of fatal diseases if she does not get her two months of antibiotics for every 10 months of milking

Peadar O Scanaill

The term 'blanket dry cow therapy' is something we in the dairy industry must step back and examine with a critical eye.

Another term for it is a "prophylactic dry cow treatment".

Both are fancy names but what exactly does it mean or, more precisely, what are we doing? We are subjecting all four quarters of every single cow in the herd to two full months of antibiotics every year of their milking lives.

That means that potentially, every cow in the Irish dairy herd gets two months of antibiotics once a year every year during its milk producing life. That cannot be something to be proud of.

Again, we should take a step back a bit and ask: has this always been the case?

Well it can't be, as antibiotics are with us hardly much more than 50 years, whereas the dairy industry pre-dates that by an awfully long time.

So why are we so dependent on these cursed medicines? And are they a good thing or a bad thing?

Well, we're very dependant on them because our husbandry methods and our massive genetic gain in the dairy cow has led to a system that leaves the animal in a very vulnerable state if we don't use dry cow antibiotics at the drying-off period.

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The 700gal cow of the 1970s has been replaced by modern cows producing over three times that amount of milk annually. However that level of genetic and nutritional improvement has taken its toll.

The modern cow can barely protect herself adequately from health challenges, and is at risk of horrible and often fatal diseases if she does not get her two months of antibiotics for every 10 months of milking.

We should ruminate on this before we push on for an all-out 40pc rise in milk output with the upcoming removal of quotas.

Irish Independent