Farmer Focus: Seasonal milk profile helps us focus on dry-off

With the whole herd ready for dry-off in just a few short days, our eight weeks of respite and recharging – when we don’t milk – lie in wait.

Although it might feel like easing the foot from the gas, one of the year’s most important tasks, the process of drying off, requires total focus and planning.

New regulation around banning blanket antibiotics treatments for groups of animals comes into force next year in Ireland.

See also: How to dry off cows to treat mastitis successfully

About the author

Gillian O’Sullivan
Livestock Farmer Focus writer Gillian O’Sullivan milks 100 crossbred cows once-a-day with her husband Neil and father Michael on Ireland’s South-East coast. They operate a seasonal calving, grass-based system with milk supplied to Glanbia trying to deliver work-life-balance and system resilience.
Read more articles by Gillian O’Sullivan

A ban on blanket antibiotics treatments equates to adopting selective dry cow therapy (SDCT) at dry-off where some cows receive dry-cow antibiotics and others sealer only.

Here we set criteria on the selection of suitable cows for drying off using teat sealer only. The criteria are: no individual milk recording somatic cell count (SCC) over 100 and no case of mastitis in the year.

We have ranged from 25% to 35% of cows receiving SDCT in the past two years without any adverse effects on annual average SCC.

Planning is essential to success and booking a milk recording in early-to-mid November allows recent SCC results to back up decision-making.

In addition to this, every cow is checked with a simple in-parlour California mastitis test as a visual back-up on the morning of dry-off.

One line of cows at a time is brought into the parlour, with the opposite side of the parlour used to lay out the necessary items for each one in a clean space.

Batches of disinfectant teat wipes for cleaning teat ends, along with either sealer or antibiotic tubes, are prepared for each cow.

Once the cows are ready, then it’s all about preparing your own working routine, for example, using a head torch to better visualise teat ends and changing or disinfecting gloves between cows.

I prioritise plenty of coffee and snacks after each line is completed to keep focus and maintain energy levels as mistakes and waning concentration could lead to poor outcomes.

It always helps to have someone capping tubes and handing necessary items as you go to speed the process up, but budgeting about one hour for every 15 cows is the benchmark.

An important task, approached as if it is a surgical procedure, gives the best results.