Drying off Cows- Blanket or Selective Treatment?


| General

| Nov 11, 2022

Cattle in parlour milk recordings screens

Global concerns surrounding Anti Microbial Resistance (AMR) and the inability of some antibiotics to fight infection in humans has meant the dairy industry is now looking towards reducing antibiotic usage when drying off cows. With that in mind, here’s what you need to know when examining your current dry off protocols on farm. 



What is antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and why must we change how we use antibiotics?

Anti microbial resistance (AMR) is a real concern in both human & animal medicine. It occurs when micro-organisms that cause infections adapt and prevent an antimicrobial from working against it. As a result the antimicrobials used to treat infections are no longer effective, limiting the treatment options available and therefore making the most common infections more difficult to treat.

AMR related deaths are greater than 25,000 a year in the EU and the WHO is estimating that 10 million deaths will occur by the year 2050 as bacteria are able to mutate to become “Super Bugs”. AMR is here but we need to do everything as a society as a whole to stop it. 


The Importance of the Dry Period

The purpose of the dry period is to give lactating animals a period of rest. A minimum of a 60-day dry cow rest period is recommended as in practice shorter periods have been found to have a negative effect on cow performance in the next lactation. It is also important to adhere to a 60-day minimum for any cows with high Somatic Cell Count (SCC) at dry off. This gives these cows time to recover and any possible infection to cure before the next lactation with treatment if necessary.

The risk of infection during the dry period is up to seven times higher than during lactation. This highlights how important it is to dry off cows correctly. This is of particular importance when implementing Selective Dry Cow therapy (SDCT) as there is no preventative antibiotics administered so cleanliness is key. Therefore, a good dry off routine is critical to ensure pathogens are not introduced into the teat canal during the process.

Vets Advice

Hazell Mullins, Clinical Director at Highfield Veterinary Group provides advice to farmers on the implementation of Selective Dry Cow Therapy on farm and best practices.


 Hazell’s Key criteria for success with SDCT

  • Identifying the infected cow at point of dry off. 
  • Avoid infection during the drying off process. 
  • Keeping the cow uninfected throughout the dry period. 
  • Keeping the cow uninfected at calving. 
  • Key is Hygiene, Hygiene and more Hygiene


Hazell’s Top Tips for SDCT dry-off day

  • Eat breakfast – Don’t be hangry!
  • Be organised – lay out everything on a table or other side of herring bone
  • Spotless parlour/crush before startingimage-png-2
  • Teat score – make sure surface of the teat is smooth
  • Use gloves
  • Bucket of cotton pads in surgical spirts or else remove wipes from packets and place in surgical spirit
  • Do not place sealers in warm water to soften – Pseudomonas risk
  • Stand in clean yard for 30 mins
  • Remember – treat your cows like surgical patients – embrace your inner surgeon!


Dry Off/SDCT Management in Herdwatch

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By using Herdwatch, you will be able to access all the information needed to select cows to be dried off, within the Dry Off Management feature. Here you will find  a detailed dashboard which includes cows in herd, average herd SCC, cows suitable for SDCT, cows to dry, cows dried, milk records and more.

Herdwatch is fully compliant with all quality assurance standards in the UK and allows farmers to record all remedy usage, register calves, cattle movements, breeding records, map your farm and more on a simple to use app.

You too can join Hazell and over 18,000 other happy farmers saving time on farm paperwork and managing their farms more efficiently by downloading the Herdwatch app today.



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