Drying-off options limited due to product shortage
As we draw ever closer to the end of the year, drying-off is certainly on the to do list. Unfortunately, it seems for routine tasks that preparation in our supplies is crucial. In recent years it's been challenging to get our hands on vaccines such as Bovivac S and Rotavec Corona at the right time; this year its teat sealers.
This is rather frustrating when a large percentage of an industry does routine jobs such as drying-off at similar times. After hearing rumbles of a shortage in supply we found ourselves dashing round trying to find Boviseal.
I believe new supplies are unavailable until November 20, which has put the market in a fluster as farmers grab what they can.
It's alright to wait a little longer for supplies for the bulk of the herd but I'm sure for those who have failed to procure it, this will impact farmers' options to only drying-off heifers and low condition score, or high SCC, cows.
This is rather unfair on the farmer - especially where this could adversely affect milk quality and risk penalties such as SCC and lactose (low yielding cows) as time ticks on.
Teat seal has become a widely-used technology, and ever more so as selective dry cow is promoted and considered. Increasingly, the practice of using teat sealer in in-calf heifers is also being considered.
When drying off it is important that you are prepared and follow a consistent routine. Disinfection of the teat is a vital step in the process.
If you are seriously considering the use of selective dry cow therapy using teat sealer alone, I can't stress enough the importance of hygiene.
Once you have selected appropriate cows with consistently low SCC values, thorough disinfection of all the teats (and especially the teat end) using cotton wool and metholated spirits or wipes, is a crucial step in the success of the process.
Preparation and adequate help is essential.
Follow the routine of far to near disinfection followed by near to far administration, making sure you squeeze the top of the teat/base of the udder shut and do not massage the sealant after administration.
Teat seal should stay in the teat canal whereas a dry cow tube would be massaged up into the udder. Finally follow with teat spray or dip and stand the cows for at least 15 minutes afterwards.
The practice of teat sealing heifers is getting increasing attention. Prevention of mastitis in the first lactation will maximise the potential of that heifer in future milk yield and longevity within the herd.
Whilst for some the thought of it still gives a shudder, for others, good results may promote this as a routine practice in the future. However, it is interesting to note that whilst the practice of teat sealant pre-calving in heifers is used in some countries, this product is not yet licenced for use in such heifers in this country.
If your herd is suffering greater than 15pc heifer mastitis or in situations where housing is pressured and there is less than one cubicle per animal available, teat sealing heifers may be looked at.
Research has suggested that teat seal should be administered four to six weeks before expected calving date. Uncooperative heifers or teats that wouldn't take the tip of the tube would be left untreated.
Results from work in Ireland have shown untreated quarters are 3.5 times more likely to have an environmental pathogen than treated quarters, whilst research from New Zealand has indicated that using teat sealer reduced the risk of a new intra-mammory infection due to Strep, Uberis by 84pc, of clinical mastitis by 68pc, and reduced the prevalence of post calving infection by 65pc.
Interestingly in the New Zealand study, antibiotic injection of Tylosin with the teat sealer had no effect.
So whilst this present shortage in teat seal supply may force farmers to not use it for some cows this year, in the long-term this technology won't disappear and is likely to become increasingly important to an industry encouraged to use selective dry cow and as a potential method to reduce the impacts of heifer mastitis.
Mary Kinston is a discussion group facilitator and consultant, and farms with her husband in Co Kerry
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