For many Australian herds, dry-off time for the spring calving cows is now upon us.
Drying-off is your single biggest opportunity to change the infection status of cows, and should probably be thought of not just as the end of one lactation, but actually as the start of the next lactation!
Because it is a significant investment of money, as well as time & effort, it is probably worth thinking about what you do and how you do it.
There are three broad goals for a successful dry-off program -
- To successfully transition each cow from being a milking cow to being a dry cow
- To maximise the effectiveness of the dry-off process & dry cow therapy in terms of both the cure of existing infections and the prevention of new infections
- To avoid antibiotic residue violations, especially when the cows calve again
Our experience is that virtually every farm we have worked with has been able to make significant improvements to their dry-off program.
Also, at a series of farmer workshops delivered by Dairy Focus, 74% of attendees said they were going home to make significant changes to their dry-off routine – that is 3 out of 4 farms!!
This strongly suggests that most farms could benefit from a review of their routine – it could be that "we've always done it this way" might not actually be the best way!
Some key questions that every farm could think about are -
- Do you have a list of dry-off dates based on predicted calving dates? How confident are you of the accuracy of those dates?
- What is your strategy to reduce production in the cows that are being dried off? Will each cow have achieved the goal of between 5 & 12 litres per day at the point of dry-off? How will you know each cow's production level?
- What is your dry cow therapy regime? Have you discussed treatments with your vet? Will it maximise both treatment and prevention opportunities?
- What is your protocol for administration of treatments at dry-off? How will you ensure that the people applying treatments achieve maximum hygiene and teat end sterilisation? How are cows marked and identified as being dry cows?
- How will the cows be managed after dry-off? Will they go to a clean, dry area? Who will check them for a few days after dry-off?
Based on our experience of developing the best possible dry-off strategy for our clients, these are consistently the areas that most farms could think about to make a difference.
We strongly suggest you talk to your adviser to review your routine, and you are also welcome to call us at the Dairy Focus office with any queries you may have.