5 common mistakes farmers make when drying off cows

Catherine Hurley

Catherine Hurley

The dry period is an opportunity for cows to prepare for the next lactation and also allows the mammary tissue time to repair.

An important aspect of the dry period is the treatment of cows at the end of lactation to dry them off, Dry-Cow Therapy (DCT) according to Teagasc advisor Don Crowley speaking at a recent CellCheck event in Clonakilty, Co Cork.

“The steps taken by farmers when drying off cows can have a significant impact on mastitis levels during the dry period and also during the following lactation. It’s critical that it’s carried out correctly,” he explained at the event held in Clonakilty Agricultural College.


Hygiene of the cow and of the farmers needs to be addressed before drying off, according to the west Cork advisor. He said that hygiene is everything when drying off and that everything from the milking apron, the parlour to the tails of the cows need to be as clean as possible.


“Get those tails clipped lads, they are huge source of infection and need to be kept tidy. This year being exceptionally dry, the same time last year if you had long tails, it would be a big problem.”

Clean Teats

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Cleaning the cows’ teat after milking is where a lot of farmers fall down according to Don. He said some farmers believe the teat is clean after milking and do not use a sanitising tissue to clean it prior inserting the dry-cow tubes.

“After you milk the cow, you still have to clean the teat. Scrub it with the sanitising towel and get all the dirt off, otherwise it will lead to infection.”


He also advised to use small groups when drying off, to reduce the stress on the cow and to get them out of the parlour before they show any sign of annoyance.

“I would say eight is enough at a time, keeping the whole thing a clean as possible and keep the cows tight in the parlour so there’s no messing about,” he said.

ID Cows

Having a clear way of identifying the cows that are being dried off is essential to eliminate anything getting in the bulk tank according to Don.

“Have some way of identifying these cows and there won’t be any mistakes made, especially if there’s a couple of people working on the farm.”

Keeping contact with the cows will also reduce the stress on the cow and make kicks few and far between according to the Teagasc advisor.

“Keep a hand on the cow as you’re moving from cleaning the teat, to antibiotic and sealer. She knows you’re there and won’t be so quick to jump.”

General points about drying-off according to Don;

  • Ensure cows’ tails are clipped prior to drying-off.
  • Dry-off cows as soon as their production reaches 9 litres per day.
  • The use of a head flash lam can increase visibility.
  • Dry-off cows abruptly – do not skip days and preferably do not skip milkings.
  • Keep the number of cows to be treated to a manageable number i.e. 20 per person per day if using antibiotic only and 10 per person per day if using both antibiotic and sealer.
  • Put cows in clean areas after treatment and maintain a clean environment during the dry-cow period to avoid picking up new infections.
  • Do not use antibiotic dry cow therapy on cows that are going to be culled within the next two to three months, to avoid unacceptable meat residues.
  • Regularly check cows during the dry-cow period for signs of mastitis.
  • Check each cow that received antibiotic dry co therapy has passed her minimum dry period when she calves, and withhold milk from the bulk tank for the period specified by the product.
  • Withhold milk from all cows from the bulk tank for at least eight milkings after calving to ensure that no colostrum or transition milk goes into the tank. This also prevents teat seal treatments from entering the bulk tank.

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