Most clinical mastitis occurs over calving, so if you’ve had a good spring, you probably feel like you’re in the clear.
Being well prepared and taking your time will help to ensure you don’t start cutting corners and risk the health of your cows, you or your staff. Drying off a herd is a demanding and tiring job but if you follow some simple guidelines you will find the process a lot less stressful.
Firstly, milk the cows to be dried off -- stripping all quarters, drafting off any clinical cases for treatment and marking dry quarters clearly so they don’t accidently get treated. After selecting which cows to treat, send them back to the paddock for a short time or alternatively yard them briefly while you clean up the shed and gather supplies (e.g. gloves, aprons with pockets, Dry Cow Therapy (DCT) +/- teat sealant, teat wipes or cotton balls in 70% alcohol, rubbish bins, tail paint, recording system and teat spray).
An experienced person should aim to treat 20-25 cows per hour if just inserting DCT or a teat sealant (eg, a single tube), whereas if you are inserting a DCT and a teat sealant (two tubes), 15 cows an hour is more achievable. Keep things simple to avoid mistakes and use either one product or combination per session.
Never warm tubes in water as this can contaminate the tubes with microorganisms and introduce unwanted infections, which can kill cows. If you are warming tubes ensure they stay dry. Ensure that your product is within its expiry date and has been stored correctly, especially if you have left-over product from the previous year.
Dry Off Cows Following Best Practice Protocol
1. Assess safety
2. Clean and dry gloves
3. Begin with front teats: complete cleaning and insertion for one teat at a time
4. Clean teat end thoroughly
5. Uncap and partially insert tube into teat end (< 3mm)
6. Dispense product, discard tube.
(Refer to your product label to determine whether or not to massage the product up into the quarter. If using Cepravin Dry Cow on its own do not massage it up, however if using in combination with a teat sealant such as Cepralock, massage the antibiotic up into the quarter before inserting the sealant. Do not massage sealant up into the quarter.)
7. If using an antibiotic and a sealant together, modify protocol (60% more time & labour):
a. Strip antibiotic up into quarter (including Cepravin)
b. Clean teat end again
c. Uncap and partially insert (< 3mm) the sealant tube
d. Hold off the top of the teat with your fingers while dispensing the sealant into the teat
e. Do not massage sealant up into the quarter
8. Repeat steps 1-7 for all four teats
9. Spray teats with teat spray
10. Mark the cow and record the treatment.
When marking cows after treatment it is a good idea that each person uses a different colour of tail paint/marking spray.
This encourages people to be careful as they are personally accountable for the cows they treat. It will also identify if further training is required.
It is important to remember that even when treated by the most careful and experienced people, cows can develop mastitis following DCT and teat sealants.
If they do, make sure you strip the quarter and take a sterile milk sample for culture and discuss with your veterinarian the most appropriate treatment plan for each case.
This is especially important for cows that are sick with mastitis.
Remember to monitor how dry-off is going for everyone, and ensure everyone has regular breaks to keep fresh. If anyone is getting fatigued or is having a hard time consistently doing this well, let them take a break, review the protocol with them, or get that person to switch jobs with someone pushing up cows or holding tails.
For further information see DairyNZ’s SmartSAMM and Healthy Udder guidelines and discuss with your local veterinarian.
For helpful videos and fact sheets which expand on the information in this article visit www.topfarmers.co.nz
• David Dymock is a livestock technical advisor with MSD Animal Health.
David Dymock, livestock technical advisor with MSD Animal Health