News & Advice

Why are vets always talking about hygiene during dry off?

Mar 4, 2020 | Dairy, Dairy Animal Health & Welfare

Jemma Guyton, Veterinarian, Anexa Vet Services

Even if you have been lucky enough to avoid having sick cows on your own farm after drying off, you more than likely have heard horror stories from your neighbour or your mate down the road.

You should have heard your vet talk about hygiene during drying off and how important it is. This isn’t just to be a pain, it’s because every season vets see nasty dry period mastitis and dying cows that could have been prevented by better hygiene during drying off.

Last season, a 700-cow farm had severe dry period mastitis. They had dried off half of the herd themselves with selective DCT. Two days later they called the clinic to say they had 6 cows that were sick with mastitis and wanted some advice. Over the next few days, this had grown to a mob of 28 cows. Eight of these cows died or were euthanised with the remaining 20 having severe mastitis, some in multiple quarters. Some of these cases were so severe that cows never properly recovered and were euthanised later in the dry period.

Their vet wanted to gain the full picture of what was occurring on farm around drying off. They were able to watch the staff dry off the next batch of cows and gained more information about the farm’s lead up to drying off and their dry period management. Through this process, it was clear that possibly the biggest factor was that there was not enough care being taken with hygiene on dry off day. Staff had not been through training and weren’t following a clear procedure.

Sterile milk samples were taken from five new cases before treatment and they all grew E. coli. Although this was a small group of samples, it helped to confirm the vet’s suspicions that poor hygiene was likely the contributing factor for the mastitis seen. E. coli bacteria come from faeces or the environment and are the most commonly introduced bug during the dry off process and often make cows very sick.

This farm went through a tough dry period and learnt some lessons the hard way. It was difficult on cows and people involved. Cutting corners on dry off day has the potential to cause mastitis and this means spending more time and money treating mastitis in the dry period.

 If you have any cases of dry period mastitis: 

  • Talk to your vet and let them know you are having cases of mastitis 
  • Any cows that become sick with mastitis within 24-72 hours after drying off need immediate attention. Take sterile milk samples before treatment. 
  • Let your vet know if more than 2% of your herd get mastitis during the dry period, as this is higher than what is considered normal. 
  • Don’t rush. Our experienced technicians only do 20 cows/ hour each. 

 What does ‘Gold Standard’ drying off mean? 

  • One teat should be disinfected and treated at a time – do not let go of the teat until you have finished inserting product. 
  • Clean each teat thoroughly with a new separate wipe or meths soaked cotton ball (use fresh wipes or meth balls for each dry off batch. Don’t use last year’s wipes!) 
  • Partially insert the intramammary tube, taking care not to damage the teat end 
  • It is best to dry cow the front quarters first and then the back quarters to avoid transferring dirt from your arms onto the back teats.
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