Use milk recording and scanning results to dry off low producers (<0.6kgMS/day), high cell count cows early, low body condition early calvers and first calvers. The action to remove high SCC cows will help to lower the bulk tank SCC and reduce the spread of infection to others
Antibiotic DCT does not cure all existing infections, with cure rates being lower in older cows and highest in first lactation cows. CULLING
Culling is the only way to eliminate some chronic infections. Culling chronic infections especially in older cows is an essential step to protect healthy young cows.
Where high SCC cows are kept for economic reasons, if only one quarter is infected, dry off (do not milk) the quarter at the start of the next lactation and milk and identifier her as a 'three teater'.
Do not use DCT on cows to be culled immediately. If cows are culled after using DCT observe withholding periods
Antibiotic DCT does not protect against environmental bacteria which may be introduced into the udder if administration is not done cleanly and carefully
Intermittent milking (OAD or skip-a-day) can increase the mastitis risk prior to dry-off, so dry-off abruptly
At the last milking teat dipping with disinfectant reduces the number of contagious mastitis bacteria on the skin
To do a good job with DCT, one person can handle no more than 20 cows per hour
Wash down the parlour between batches of cows to maximise cleanliness at time of treatment
A step before DCT administration is to clearly mark the cows that are to be treated using spray paint or tapes
Wear disposable gloves
Using a mixture of 70pc alcohol on cotton wool or teat wipes to disinfect whole teat and especially the teat end prior to administration of DCT
Keep tubes sterile and do not warm up in warm water as this increases the chance of contamination. Do not remove the tube cap until ready to administer the quarter in question
Dip teats with freshly made up teat disinfectant after treatment
Immediately after drying off put the cows in a dry clean paddock or dry clean cubicles. Do not allow them to lie down on bare ground or areas soiled with manure
Record the cow ID, date and product details of all DCT
Do not walk cows long distances or near the milking parlour for 3-4 days after DCT is administered to minimise milk and antibiotic leakage
Check udders daily but do not handle, to identify any cow with a swollen quarter
Any cow with a swollen quarter must be separated off and check manually for heat and pain. Strip the suspect quarter and if suspicious treat as a clinical case. Once course is completed re-administer DCT and make a record.
Having milked cows for years, we all assume we know how to dry-off a cow.
However, because we only do this process once a year there is no harm in refreshing ourselves about how to do this well.
If you would like further information to help train staff or family members new to drying off, the resources available at Animal Health Ireland are excellent, and a great source of information.
Mary Kinston is a discussion group facilitator and consultant, and farms with her husband in Co Kerry.