Dry Cow Strategies


1 min read

Before drying off Mastitis management (dry off) Drying off abruptly Selecting cows

At the end of lactation, dairy cows require a dry period to allow udder tissue to repair and rejuvenate. The recommendation is all cows are protected from mastitis during the dry period. Dry cow management has a significant impact on business. Decisions during this time influence your herd's mastitis performance for the next 6 to 12 months.

Before drying off

In the months before drying off, continue all recommendations from the lactation period, and consider these decisions:

  • Which cows will need to dried off early, and when?
  • Which cows need to be culled based on this year's mastitis records?
  • What dry cow treatment approach to use at drying off?
  • Who will administer the dry cow treatments? Have they been trained sufficiently?
  • How will milk yields be reduced in the last 1-2 weeks before drying off?
  • How will cows be managed for the first 3 weeks after dry off?

Mastitis management during dry off

Options for protection include antibiotic Dry Cow Treatment (DCT) and/or Internal Teat Sealants (ITS). 

DCT is used to treat existing infections that have not been cured during lactation, and to reduce the number of new infections that may occur during the dry period.

ITS are used to protect uninfected quarters during the dry period and at calving, and extend the protection provided by DCT.

Drying off abruptly

Consider drying cows off that are producing less than 5 litres a day. Ensure their feeding levels are reduced to reduce milk production. Always out cows in clean areas after giving DCT. Feed cows their maintenance diet for the first 7-14 days after dry off. See guideline 16 for more info.

Selecting cows to dry off

Calculate your dry-off date to allow cows to be dry for at least six weeks. Dry off high SCC cows to lower bulk milk SCC. Make a dry off strategy using the data you have available. Assess your herd level of mastitis along with individual animals. Consult with a vet to selecting the best dry cow management strategy for your herd, and how to store dry cow products. See Gudieline 14 for more info.

For further information on dry off strategies, tissue regeneration during the dry period and cure rates of different DCT products please see Technote 14.

Last updated: Sep 2023
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