Drying off - make it count

Published 9 March 18

MastitisWorking in partnership, AHDB Dairy and the University of Nottingham have released a series of factsheets and two short films about controlling mastitis through dry cow management.

Drying off is a key time for mastitis control. Decisions made at this time can influence the herd’s performance for the next six to 12 months.

Richard Wells, Farm Manager, Sludge Hall Farm, Leicestershire, says: “Dry cow management is a vital part of our herd health plan and we discuss it regularly with our vet. At drying-off, each cow is looked at on an individual basis, looking at their milk history using the last three months of milk recording to select whether she has sealant only or antibiotics and sealant.”

Dr Jenny Gibbons, AHDB Senior Scientist, adds: “Not only is drying-off a significant investment in terms of money and effort for farmers, it is usually the single biggest opportunity to make a difference to an individual cow’s infection status as well as the overall herd’s mastitis status.”

The factsheets ‘Dry cow management: a practical guide to effective mastitis control’ and films provide information and recommendations for farmers on drying off, along with a pictorial protocol on clean infusion technique at dry-off.  The guidance encourages farmers and their farm staff to work together with their veterinary surgeons to decide on the most effective dry cow management strategy to prevent new infection and the development of mastitis in the next lactation.

Filmed on a working farm and presented in a practical way to help farmers implement best practice, the films and associated factsheets will help to develop skills on farm for long term mastitis control. The resources cover:

  • decision making at dry off,
  • drying-off,
  • clean infusion technique,
  • monitoring the dry period performance as well as
  • consideration on nutrition, housing and calving management. 

Dr James Breen, Vet and Associate Professor of Cattle Health and Production at the University of Nottingham says: “The importance of taking a structured approach to the administration of dry cow therapy cannot be over-stated in terms of reducing the risk of new infection around drying-off. It is vitally important to clean the teats of cows prior to drying-off with a pre-milking teat disinfectant and cotton wool soaked in surgical spirit – whether you are using teat sealant alone or antibiotic dry cow therapy in combination with teat sealant.”

“For many British dairy herds, a focus on reducing environmental infection during the dry period will bring great benefit in terms of reducing clinical mastitis and new cell count infection in the early part of the next lactation. Irrespective of dry cow therapy chosen, we know cows are susceptible to new infection in the early and late parts of the dry period, and around the time of calving. A focus on environment management, particularly the availability of space if housed or frequent rotation if at grass, is hugely important in terms of how likely we are to calve down an uninfected cow at calving.”

The new factsheets and films are available to view and download from /dry-cow-management. This project is part of the AHDB Dairy Research Partnership on the ‘Health, Welfare and Nutrition of Dairy Cattle’ led by the University of Nottingham.