DairyNZ senior scientist Jane Lacy-Hulburt outlines seven focus areas to fine-tune your dry cow approach and get the most out of your time and money.
1. Choose the right approach for your herd
Antibiotic dry cow treatment (DCT) and internal teat sealants (ITS) are effective tools – DCT for treating infections in high SCC cows, and DCT or ITS for preventing new infections in low SCC cows.
Invest time with your vet in your milk quality review to look at mastitis treatment records, SCC history and the mastitis risk of your wintering/calving system.
For information and recommendations on drying off and deciding your dry cow management strategy, visit dairynz.co.nz/dryingoff.
2. Know the bacteria
Knowledge of the bacteria responsible for clinical cases in spring, or high SCC cows in autumn, is invaluable for more cost-effective decisions about dry cow treatments. Discuss with your vet the right cows to sample and refer to DairyNZ’s Healthy Udder guide for sampling procedures.
3. Re-visit your treatment plan
In recent years, many farmers have successfully trialled combination treatments (where a cow received both DCT and ITS). With a lower milk price, farmers may be re-thinking this approach. Support your investment with other preventative measures – see tips 5, 6 and 7.
4. Consider which DCT products for high SCC cows
Talk to your vet about cost-effective solutions for older, higher SCC cows. The difference in cure rates between different product brands is marginal. Cows with a high SCC don't necessarily need the more expensive treatment.
5. Support your investment decisions using trained staff
Invest time and effort into training your team to administer DCT and ITS with correct hygienic technique. Refer to DairyNZ’s Healthy Udder for step-by-step instructions and ask your vet to provide a training session. Poor technique is not worth the risk of dead cows.
6. Teat spray springers before calving
Teat spraying springers two to three times a week reduces the risk of new mastitis cases at calving. This simple technique benefits both protected and unprotected animals. Where practical, it may provide a low-cost approach for extending the benefit of some dry cow products.
7. Milk cows soon after calving
Bringing cows that have just calved into milk within 12 hours greatly reduces the level of clinical mastitis. Although tested on heifers, this solution should work well for mature animals also.
This article was originally published in Inside Dairy April 2015