Preparation for the dry off of cows calving in the fall has begun in many herds across the country.
Drying off signals the end of one lactation and the start of the next.
Giving cows a dry spell is important for a number of reasons, including that:
- It allows cows to improve their physical condition before calving and the start of lactation;
- It allows cows to regenerate mammary tissue in preparation for milking again;
- It optimizes the benefits of the hormonal changes that occur around calving.
Cows should be dried off based on their calving date and body condition (BCS), so it is important that calving dates are monitored. Cows with too low a BCS should be dried off earlier, as this will allow them to improve their body condition before breeding.
Herds calving in autumn
Herds calving in the fall of this year will be the first to face the new antibiotic regulations at the dry period.
This means that Selective Dry Cow Therapy (SDCT) will likely need to be used on these farms and for many this may be their first experience with SDCT.
And with SDCT now being used on farms, dry-off hygiene has become increasingly important.
Antibiotics have acted as a safety net for poor dry off practices in the past, but they are no longer a fallback.
Research has indicated that 50% of all cases of clinical mastitis that occur within the first 100 days of the next lactation can be attributed to the drying off process.
So with that in mind, farmers need to be diligent about dry cows at a high level.
To obtain the best results from the drying off process and avoid mastitis problems in early lactation, here are a few tips:
- Prepare the necessary equipment, including: A clean apron; disposable gloves; teat wipes/cotton wool; methylated spirit; marker pen; headlamp; and intermammary tubes;
- It is important not to dry off the cows when you are tired, hungry or stressed. Dry off only 20 cows at a time and have extra help available to help you. Have a system in place to clean, sterilize teats and tubes, and repeat for each cow;
- Ensure teats are sanitized after placement and clean the milking parlor between batches to maintain a clean environment;
- To avoid errors, good cow identification and accurate record keeping are essential;
- After drying off, keep cows upright for at least 30 minutes in a clean yard before moving them to a dry field or clean stalls.
Drying off is also a good time to treat cows for parasites such as stomach worms or liver fluke.
Before treating cows for parasites, it is important to first determine that treatment is necessary for the cows. It is not recommended to treat cows that do not have a parasite problem.
Dung samples should be taken to determine if there is a problem within the herd.