Dairy producers should be using the Orbeseal teat sealant shortage as an ideal opportunity to address dry cow management.
Following the announcement by Pfizer Animal Health that the product will be in short supply after a global batch failure, vets are voicing concerns over a potential rise in late dry period mastitis infection rates.
Vet Andy Biggs, of the Vale Veterinary Group, explained that 60% of new mastitis infections occurred in the dry period, with cows at higher risk in the two weeks after drying off and in the two weeks prior to calving.
“Orbeseal gives protection in the late dry period when cows are particularly at risk of infection – no antibiotic dry cow therapy will cover cows against mastitis infection at this late stage,” he said.
Vet Maarten Boers, of the Livestock Partnership, said there was no doubt late dry period infection rates would increase, resulting in higher cell count animals and an increase in clinical cases in the first month of calving.
Consequently, ensuring management was “tip-top” at this stage was crucial. In fact, Mr Biggs commented that the shortage of Orbeseal presented an ideal opportunity for producers to think about how they could improve dry cow management – something which would be beneficial even when Orbeseal returned.
Mr Biggs stressed that maintaining a clean, dry transition cow environment formed the basis of preventing infections and the most important thing was to control the amount of moisture in the environment – something which was influenced by stocking rates and ventilation.
“Producers should talk to their vet to discuss how best to optimise their system. For example, it may mean moving cows or changing the dry period length.”
Mr Boers said straw quality was a particular area for attention as the winter progressed. “When it gets to the end of February it is common to find all the best straw has been used and producers are left with bedding that has been stored in less than ideal conditions.
“When this is the case, it is definitely worth weighing up the costs of buying in better-quality straw to prevent mastitis infections.”
He commented that the situation could create a good opportunity for producers to think of alternative bedding options. “It won’t work for everyone, but it may be worth considering whether transition cows could be housed on sand.
“Stock produce a lot of heat and humidity, creating the ideal environment for mastitis-causing bugs, so check ventilation and ensure there is enough inlet and outlet space.”
And where Orbeseal was not available, Mr Boers also recommended the use of an antibiotic dry cow therapy on animals that had previously only been treated with the teat sealant. Although responsible antibiotic use encouraged the use of teat sealant in isolation on low cell count cows, antibiotic use was recommendable in view of the current shortage.
Mr Biggs said external teat sealants were a potential alternative to Orbeseal, however they came with complications. “External sealants tend to break easily and have to be reapplied every 10-14 days. Speak to your vet about alternative options,” he said.
Vet Nick Eames, from Tyndale Farm Veterinary Practice, also said ensuring the diet was tailed down so cows were ideally giving below 15 litres would also help reduce mastitis risk. “For every one litre increase over 15 litres, there is an increased chance of infection,” he said.