Four Simple, But Essential Steps to Dry Off Success

Bill Sullivan, Quality Milk Specialist, Zoetis

When it comes to mastitis, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of milk, which means even the small things can make a big difference. Preventing mastitis infections in the dry period is your opportunity to set cows up for successful production and good health in the next lactation.

Let’s look at what’s at risk if cows calve in with mastitis after the dry period. One study found that cows with a high first-test somatic cell count (SCC) that was greater than 200,000 cells/mL produced an average of 1,583 pounds less milk than cows with a normal first-test SCC.Those animals with a high first-test SCC also were: 

  • Open 17 days longer
  • Three times more likely to have a case of clinical mastitis
  • Three times more likely to leave the herd

So, how can you avoid these production losses?

By ensuring each step of a comprehensive dry cow program is done and done correctly. It’s one thing to know what needs to be done, and it’s another to make sure it’s happening in real time in the parlor. Here are four of the most commonly missed steps that can make or break a dry off program:

  1. Clean teat ends completely.
    This may seem easy, yet many farms simply fail to do it correctly. It is especially important to clean the teat ends prior to administering any products to prevent pathogens from being pushed into the teat canal. Don’t forget to clean teats thoroughly (again) between the application of a dry tube and a teat sealant.
  1. Prevent cross contamination.Once a teat is properly cleaned, it’s essential to avoid reaching across that teat end. To avoid cross contamination, employees should work from farthest to closest teats when cleaning, but closest to farthest teats when administering products. Additionally, make sure your employees wash their hands or change gloves between cows to prevent the spread of bacteria.
  1. Squeeze the teat base. When applying an internal teat sealant like Orbeseal®, squeeze off the teat canal at its base to prevent the product from entering the udder. Teat sealants serve as a replacement for the keratin plug, so they need to remain at the end of the teat.
  1. Tell your employees WHY. Your employees want to do what is best for your herd, but it might be tempting to speed through the process if they don’t understand the importance of each step. During training, emphasize why dry cow management is important for a productive lactation. Then, clearly explain what steps your employees need to take, so they fully understand their role in setting your herd up for success in the dry period.

These steps are crucial to the success of a comprehensive dry off program that includes:

  • Treat: Help clear up subclinical mastitis infections with a dry cow tube.
  • Seal: Block pathogens from entering the udder with an internal teat sealant.
  • Protect: Prevent new mastitis infections with an Escherichia coli (E. coli) vaccine.

Following dry off best practices and utilizing a comprehensive dry cow program can help prevent mastitis and decrease SCC, ultimately protecting your dairy’s productivity.1 Learn more about how mastitis prevention during dry off can help protect your dairy’s profitability.

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