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Thursday 8 December 2016

Management key to answering the drying-off issues

Published 16/11/2010 | 05:00

Clean cubicles and scraped passageways are key to good winter milk systems
Clean cubicles and scraped passageways are key to good winter milk systems
Risk of mastitis during dry period

The dry cow period is a critical stage in the control of somatic cell count (SCC) and mastitis for the upcoming calving season.

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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.

Which product to use?

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  • Carry out a culture and sensitivity test once every three to four years. Take samples directly from the teat -- disinfect the teat before taking the sample. A sample from three cows and one bulk tank sample is OK.
  • Use a long acting dry-cow therapy.
  • Pick a product based on the active ingredient not the brand.
  • Use an oil-based dry-cow tube.
  • Pick a dry-cow tube corresponding to the mastitis tube working well on your farm.
  • Consult your vet or adviser.

When should you use a teat sealer?

Teat sealers act as a plug and prevent new bacteria from entering the udder through the teat canal. Sealers are useful in the following situations:

  • Cows with a long dry period ie, when the dry period is significantly longer than the length of time which the dry cow is active for.
  • Where housing facilities are inadequate, over-crowding and the risk of environmental bacteria is high.
  • For free-milking cows which may leak on cubicles.
  • Cows dried off with high volumes of milk.

Irish Independent