Management key to answering the drying-off issues
The dry cow period is a critical stage in the control of somatic cell count (SCC) and mastitis for the upcoming calving season.
Here we highlight the most important issues to be addressed during the drying-off period.
Decision-making on drying-off date
The decision to dry off should be based on the following criteria:
- Expected calving date: Write down the drying-off date. This avoids scenarios where cows calve 40 days after drying off, even though the withdrawal period for the tubes may be 54 days.
- Daily milk yield: Cows at greater than 56 days to the expected calving date but with a milk yield at less than seven litres a day.
- SCC: Cows at greater than 56 days to the expected calving date and milking more than seven litres a day BUT milk SCC is greater than 300,000cells/ml.
- Lactose: When lactose levels drop below 4.2 pc, low-yielding high SCC cows should be dried off.
In the event of individual cow milk yields not being available, once the milk yield of the average cow [in the herd] drops below 8-10 litres/day, close examination of all cows must be carried out with a view to drying-off, or the entire herd should be dried off (see graph).
The two important aspects of managing the drying- off of cows are (a) correct decision-making and (b) correct application of procedures.
Decision-making for dry cow therapy
- To treat or cull a cow: Consider culling any cow that had three or more clinical mastitis cases during the current lactation and/or cows with high cell counts in two consecutive lactations, despite treatment with dry cow antibiotic therapy in the dry period in between.
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