Make the most of drying off

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The wet summer has resulted in more mastitis than usual on some dairy farms. Countdown Downunder has a timely reminder to make the most of drying off, which is a once-a-lactation opportunity to eliminate existing infections.

Dairy Australia's Countdown Downunder project leader, Dr John Penry said treatment at drying off is the best opportunity to reduce cell counts and existing mastitis infections in preparation for next season; and this opportunity is even more important after wet, humid conditions when there may be more infected quarters in the herd.

"In most cases it's worth investing in a blanket approach to dry cow treatment; that is, treating all quarters of all cows at drying off. The best results will be achieved by using a combination of antibiotic dry cow treatment to cure mastitis and a teat sealant to protect the teat canal from new infection after consultation with your vet," Dr Penry said.

Following Countdown's checklist for Drying-off Plan will help you prepare for the job; so the process runs smoothly on the day. The checklist takes you through the key decisions to be made such as timing, products, people and what to do after the cows are treated.

Planning

When planning in advance you should consider the issues that affect the timing of dry cow treatment; for example the intended length of dry period, whether accurate calving dates are available from pregnancy test results, and how cows will be managed when they are producing between five and 12 litres per day. This is the also the time to decide on a clean location for newly treated cows, and to schedule any preparation needed for that location.

Discuss the treatment options with your vet, and order any products such as tubes and teat wipes well in advance. 

Get it right!

An important part of the preparations is to allocate enough time and people to the job. Poor administration technique can carry bacteria into the udder, so it is essential to get it right. Provide advance training for anyone administering antibiotic dry cow treatment or teat sealant or both. To do the job well you can only treat about 20 cows per hour.

After treatment

Decide well in advance how cows will be managed after treatment. Don't transport cows immediately if you can help it. They'll need a clean area for at least a week after drying off. Never put them in areas that have had effluent spread. Work out a procedure for checking cows for swollen quarters for the next week. Decide who will do it, how and when. You'll also need to decide how to deal with cows that leak milk.

"A little planning before drying-off is the key to a better run next lactation. If you are going to spend the time and money on dry cow treatments, it's worth doing well, so you reap the rewards next season in terms of fewer clinical cases, lower cell counts, less stress treating cows with clinical mastitis and improved milk quality," said Dr Penry.

For more information refer to Countdown Downunder Checklist for Drying-off Plan available on http://www.dairyaustralia.com.au/Farm/Mastitis-and-milk-quality/Latest-news.aspx or phone Countdown Downunder (03)9620-7283.

Countdown Downunder is an example of your levy at work. For more information on this and other examples of your levy at work visit www.dairyaustralia.com.au