Cows are finally dry, but paddocks are still wet! A late dry off in the 2022/23 season means a shorter dry period for the cows, but also a shorter break from the cowshed for farm staff. This can make it hard to get motivated for the early planning needed for excellent milk quality in 2023/24 season, but getting the systems right now will prevent problems later and will increase the chances of you achieving your farm’s milk quality goals.
So, what do you need to do to minimise mastitis and maximise milk quality? Anexa Vets recommend:
Dry period check list to minimise mastitis and maximise milk quality
- Check your dry cows regularly for mastitis
- Ensure all farm staff have the knowledge they need
- Know your cows’ trace elements status and implement changes required
- Consider your transition cow management plan, implement changes to suit the season
- Review and amend your colostrum mob management plan
- Confirm you have your Annual Prescription (RVM) on farm and ensure all staff understand how to follow it
- Complete a milking machine check
- Change rubberware
- Check your teat spray supplies and on-farm protocols
All these components can affect your herd’s milk quality, let’s us explain how…
Check your dry cows regularly for mastitis
- Are cows checked daily in the paddock and any ‘suspect’ cows brought to the shed?
- Are cows checked (and teat sprayed) regularly in the shed (from 2 weeks post dry off)?
Dry cows can get mastitis! That statement might sound obvious, but sometimes the obvious needs to be stated.
As an industry we got used to the widespread use of combination therapy of dry cow antibiotic therapy with internal teat sealant preventing serious cases of mastitis. It was easy to think that cows don’t even get mastitis over the dry period. However, this simply isn’t the case. There have always been cows that get clinical mastitis in the dry period, and unfortunately there always will be. The key to minimising the long-term effects of dry period mastitis is to find cases early and treat them promptly before the cow becomes too sick or too much damage occurs increasing the chances ending up with a blind quarter.
From the day of drying off, every cow should be checked every day in the paddock – watch for cows that are slow to cross to a new break, cows showing signs of lameness or any with an obviously swollen quarter. These daily checks should continue right through to calving and any suspect cows should be brought to the shed to be checked more carefully.
After a couple of weeks have passed since dry off, cows can be run through the shed to allow a more thorough check – look for uneven quarters, redness, swelling or heat. If you think a cow may have mastitis, strip that quarter (leave all the other quarters alone though) and treat with lactating cow antibiotics as per your vet’s instructions on your RVM drug chart, after collecting an aseptic milk sample. If a cow is sick with mastitis, talk to your vet about her in the first instance to provide her with the right treatment from the start. Your vet also wants to know if you get more than one or two dry off mastitis cases.Remember to teat spray every cow that comes through the shed, no matter why she’s there.
Ensure farm staff have the knowledge they need
- Have you booked your new staff onto Pre-Calving Workshops for Beginners
- Have you booked staff training on your own farm covering your choice of topics?
Whether staff are brand new to dairy farming, new to your farm or already part of your farm team, there is always something to learn. Creating an environment where people can learn why things are done a certain way will make for happier, more productive team members which results in happier, healthier, and ultimately more productive cows!
This year we are running our Pre-Calving Workshops for Beginners in Morrinsville and Ngatea again for people new to dairy farming. For more experienced staff, we offer on-farm training for the whole farm team. Click on the links or talk to your local clinic staff to find out more.
Know your cows trace elements status and implement changes required
- Have you implemented your vet’s recommendations following your herd’s liver biopsies & trace element bloods samples?
- If you haven’t checked the TE status of the herd & Rs yet, book it in now!
Ensuring the correct trace element supplementation plan is in place for your herd will prevent a range of issues whether from deficiency, toxicity, poorer production, and reproduction or simply by not wasting your money buying products your cows don’t need. Have a look back at last month’s trace element article for more information.
Consider your Transition Cow Management Plan, implement changes to suit the season
- Do you have a plan for managing transition cows (from springers to milkers)?
- If milk fever is a common problem on your farm, talk to your vet now about what you can do to reduce prevalence
The transition period includes about 2-3 weeks immediately before and after calving. Getting Transition Cow management right has a whole pile of benefits to your cows, your staff and ultimately your bank balance! On the other hand, cows with a sub-optimal transition period have higher rates of metabolic disease (down cows), they have poorer immunity resulting in increased risk of diseases such as mastitis and metritis (“dirty cows”), they have poorer production and reproduction later in the season. Read more about the transition period and how best to manage the springer mob here.
Review and amend your Colostrum Mob Management Plan
- Do you have a plan for managing colostrum cows (milking frequency, feed budgets, mineral supplementation etc.)?
A successful colostrum period can set the course for the whole season. Now is the time to plan your milking frequencies, your breaks and supplementation feeding including mineral supplementation for your colostrum cows. Don’t wait until there is a problem. Have a read of this month’s Transition Cow Management article to learn more
Confirm you have your Annual Prescription (RVM) on farm and ensure staff understand how to read it
- has your annual prescription been done for 2023/24?
- Is your chart on farm?
- Do new staff know how to read the chart and know how to administer each of the treatments prescribed by your vet?
Not only is it a legal requirement to have an annual consultation with your veterinarian so they can prescribe the most appropriate RVMs (restricted veterinary medicines) for your herd, but it is also a great opportunity to reassess what has been working well, or what may need to be tweaked around the medicines being used to treat a range of conditions in your animals. It is vital that any staff on your farm who may be diagnosing and/or treating animals know when to use each product and how to use them correctly and safely. We provide an A3 waterproof Drug Ledger to hang in your shed, which outlines exactly what has been prescribed for each condition. If your team hasn’t had a run-through of the chart with your vet yet, please get in touch with us.
Milking machine check & rubberware replacement
- Has your machine been tested and serviced yet?
- If not, is a service booked?
- have liners and tubes all been changed ready for the new season?
Correct milking machine function is critical to efficient milk harvesting while maintaining healthy teats. When milking machines are not working properly, they can cause teat damage which may result in new mastitis infections. The dry period is the best time to get a thorough service done on your plant to check for any issues that may have gone unnoticed (or unresolved) during lactation.
Rubberware (liners, short milk tubes and pulse tubes) should be replaced during the dry period ready for the new season. Rubberware starts to deteriorate long before visible damage can be seen which will reduce milking efficiency and increase the spread of infections that cause mastitis. Remember that rubber liners should be replaced every 2,500 milkings to stay ahead of any issues.
Check your teat spray supplies and on-farm protocols
- Have you ordered teat spray and emollient ready for the new season?
- Have your teat spray applicators been checked?
- Do all staff know how to mix and apply teat spray at the correct rates?
Teat disinfection is the most effective tool in mastitis prevention and control. It reduces clinical infections and lowers somatic cell count. However, it only works when it is carried out correctly. It may seem simple, but there are several steps to getting it right (or opportunities to get it wrong as the case may be!). Invest time now as a team to make sure everyone knows exactly how to prepare, use, and measure coverage of teat spray so you don’t have problems later. If you would like one of our vets to run some Healthy Udder training please contact your local clinic or send us a message through our Farm Staff Training and Education page.
If you are aiming to minimise mastitis and maximise milk quality for the coming season, this check list is a good starting point. If you would like to talk through any of these recommendations in more detail or want to know how we can help you get the results you want, get in touch with your local Anexa Vet Clinic.