Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Thursday 15 November 2018

How to chose the best option when drying off cows on your farm

Vet Willie Buckley.
Vet Willie Buckley.
Catherine Hurley

Catherine Hurley

Antibiotic dry-cow therapy undoubtedly has an important role to play at treating infections that persist at the end of lactation and maximising cure rates.

However, it has also traditionally been used to prevent new infections occurring during the dry period. This is no longer acceptable by the consumer, whom is becoming more intolerant of using antibiotics on a ‘just in case’ basis, according to vet Willie Buckley.

Selective dry-cow therapy is an option for farmers to reduce their antibiotic usage when drying-off cows.

This is when only selected cows are treated with antibiotic when drying off, normally cows with a high cell count or with a previous mastitis incidence.

“Make a plan with your vet that works for you and monitor the results next spring. Farmers can do something now, but they need to have the information first to bae their decisions on,” explained Willie Buckley, a vet who is heavily involved in the CellCheck programme, speaking at the recent CellCheck event in Clonakilty Agricultural College.

According to Willie, there are four options that farmers can take when drying off cows;

1.      Use a sealant only

2.      Use an antibiotic and a sealant

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3.      Use just the antibiotic on its own

4.      Don’t use anything and leave the cow to dry off naturally.

Choosing a strategy for dry-cow treatment

Before choosing a strategy, identify if you have enough information to make individual cow decisions. According to the Bandon-based vet the minimum requirements for this is to have clinical case records and at least three milk recordings for each cow.

“Farmers have to record clinical cases in their herd, but not only doing the recording and taking the data, farmers need to analyse this and base their decisions on this information,” he said at the event held in Clonakilty agricultural college.

He also said that it was critical for farmers to strategically plan when they are milk recording their herd. He said that the earlier the case of mastitis is spotted, the higher the cure rate is.

“I’ve a farmer who has a strict calving period of 12 weeks and starts calving mid-January. He’s milk recording on the first of March, half way through calving to get any cases in time and he’s chasing those cows and following them up with antibiotics.

“Farmers need to target use of milk recording to the times of highest risk which is the two weeks after being dried off, two weeks prior calving and the two weeks after calving, this is when risk of new infection is most high.

The use of teat sealer alone should only be used on cows with a somatic cell count (SCC) that is consistently under 100,000 cells/mL and have no clinical cases of mastitis in this lactation, according to the west Cork vet.

He also recommended that antibiotic treatment should be used on cows with an SCC of greater than 100,000 on any milk recording this lactation or cows that have had any clinical cases of mastitis this lactation.

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