Farm Ireland

Thursday 22 February 2018

Don't let the dry cow fall off the radar

ATTENTION: Now is the time to take stock of the drying-off process and some of the potential threats to your herd
ATTENTION: Now is the time to take stock of the drying-off process and some of the potential threats to your herd

Peadar O Scanaill

It is never ending in liquid milk herd, but the main drying-off season for the spring calving herd is only around the corner. As we start into it we should take stock of the whole process.

Often in the dairy herd, the cow for drying off is looked upon like the football player being replaced by the substitute halfway through the game. Everyone pays attention to the incoming 'sub' and no one cares for the retiring player heading for the bench.

This should never be the case, even thoough it might be natural for a cow not being milking to move off the radar. After all, dairy farms' primary concern is to produce milk.

Animal Health Ireland's (AHI) cell check programme gives excellent advice on when and how to properly dry off a cow. So let's just touch on a few aspects of good practice at this point.

The mammary gland is in its most vulnerable state just before, and immediately after, drying off. This is because the seal in the teat (the natural seal) is slow to become fully functional in the first few days post-drying.

Without a perfect sealing of the teat canal, the gland is greatly exposed to bacteria entering up from the outside, and directly into the gland of the newly dry cow.

The cow is no longer being milked. There is no twice-a-day emptying of the milk in the gland, and any infection that gains access to this area at this stage, can cause quite a deal of trouble.

One of the best ways of pushing bacteria up into the gland is by careless procedures by the farmer at the drying- off stage; for instance, contaminating the end of a dry cow tube or teat sealing device and pushing it up into the udder.

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Take care to wash your hands, wear clean disposable gloves, and wash the teats thoroughly before inserting anything into the teat.

The washed teat should then be dried with disposable wipes, alcohol wipes and then teat dipped. The teat should be expertly prepared before infusing a tube of any sort.

Attempting to do this chore in a hurry is a highway to failure.

One or two severe E.coli mastitis cases is enough to concentrate anyone's mind on the importance of attention to detail when doing this job.

Peadar Ó Scanaill is a member of the Food Animal Group of Veterinary Ireland and is a veterinary surgeon in practice in Ashbourne, Co Meath.

Irish Independent