Most of our clients have started drying off some cows (e.g. low BCS, early-calving, heifers, low production and high SCC cows). These early dry off groups may need a little extra thought.
Low BCS, early-calvers and heifers
Be careful not to underfeed these animals at dry off. The drying off process requires a lot of extra energy over and above maintenance requirements. Reducing feed to help drying off will just lead to BCS loss. Cows producing < 12L milk per day are very easy to dry off and need minimal feed changes (reduced protein)
Change the routine
As you approach dry off, milk them at a different time of day, switch from TAD to OAD milking and feed their supplements at different times; these all help turn off milking stimuli.
Feed pad – manage the risk
We all know that cows should be kept well away from the shed for at least 10 days following dry off to reduce the stimulation to let down and produce milk. However, for many herds, it just isn’t possible to keep cows off the feed pad (which is usually next to the shed) but you can reduce the risks
- all animals should receive intramammary teat sealant and/or dry cow antibiotic therapy
- keep them off the pad for as long as possible (ideally until visibly drying off)
- when they must come to the pad, bring them at different times of day to milking time and their usual feeding times during lactation
- ensure the pad is clean before the dry cows come on
- don’t allow cows to run to the pad (have a person in front controlling their speed if necessary)
- make sure they don’t spend longer than necessary on the pad (eat and go).
Low producing cows
If possible, avoid the use of dry cow antibiotic therapy in cows producing < 5L per day. Low milk volume at dry off increases the chance of IS grading after calving.
If it rains when you have planned to dry off, you (and all staff!) need to be extra vigilant about hygiene for dry cow therapy and teat sealant insertion. You may even need to tweak your drying off plans to reduce the risk of mastitis.
If you find the BTSCC rising before dry off, it is still worth trying to identify the cause. It could be due to lower milk volume (cows starting to dry themselves off) or increased intramammary infections (clinical or subclinical) that may need to be treated before dry off. Either way, you may need to change your approach to drying off; a phone call to your vet would be well worth while.