Farm Ireland

Wednesday 17 January 2018

Important steps to successful use of antibiotics on dry cows

Administration of dry cow therapy is a critical and difficult task. It is vitally important that the cow is ready and that the dry cow therapy is administered carefully, as bacteria introduced into the teat at this stage can result in severe clinical mastitis.

  • Cows should be dried off abruptly with no once-a-day milking prior to drying off.
  • If the volume of milk being produced is still significant, reduce the plane of nutrition for a period of time. When drying these cows off, if at all possible, put out on a bare paddock for a week until they shut down, thus reducing the risk of them leaking on cubicles.
  • CMT test all cows prior to drying off to identify problem quarters. Treating these problem quarters with lactating tubes prior to drying off will help. Farmers can also administer injectable antibiotics prior to drying off under veterinary supervision, especially if more than one quarter is affected.
  • Milk out the quarter fully before infusing the dry cow antibiotic/sealant.
  • Disinfect the teat end with cotton wool soaked in methylated spirits.
  • Avoid contamination of the nozzle of the antibiotic tube before insertion into the teat canal.
  • Infuse the contents of the antibiotic tube into the infected quarter -- hold the teat-end firmly between the thumb and forefinger and, with the other hand, gently massage the antibiotic upwards into the teat.
  • The teat seal must be left in the teat canal to allow it to block bacteria entering the teat and to prevent the sealer contaminating the milk after calving.
  • Teat-spray the treated quarters immediately after infusion.
  • Record the cow number, date and product details of all dry-cow treatments.
  • Mark the cow (leg band or spray paint on udder) so that cows that have received dry cow antibiotic therapy can be readily recognised.
  • Do not leave cows in yards or soiled areas in the period immediately after dry-cow therapy application.
  • Maintain dry cows away from the milking herd if possible and put dry cows in clean, dry paddocks -- particularly for the first two weeks after drying off -- to reduce teat exposure to environmental mastitis bacteria.
  • Do not dry off more than 8-10 cows at any one time, if you wish to carry out a proper job.


  • Cows are most at risk of infection just after drying off and just before calving.
  • Use a recommended dry cow therapy.
  • Make informed decisions about culling or treatment options based on cow milk records.
  • Focus on hygiene when tubing the cow.
  • Keep dry and calving cows clean and dry.
  • Dry off abruptly.
  • Record drying off dates and pay close attention to milk withholding times.
  • Drying off is the first and most important stage in the fight against somatic cell counts for next year.

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