Drying-off is probably the single biggest opportunity to make a difference to both a cow and a herd's mastitis status - it is the best chance to cure existing infections, and it is a very important part of preventing new infections, especially at calving.
Drying-off is so important in terms of preventing new infections at calving, that we tend not to think of drying-off just as then end of one lactation, but also as the start of the next one!
Anything that you get wrong, or even not as good as it might be at drying-off, means that you have to wait until the next dry-off for that cow, or group of cows, before you have another opportunity to achieve those goals.
How can you maximise your opportunities at drying-off? What, if anything, could change as a result of considering your dry-off routine?
A few years ago, we developed and ran a series of drying-off workshops - "Stop, Seal & Heal - successful drying-off" - with 150 dairy farmers in Northern Victoria.
At those workshops, 74% of the participants said they were going home to make significant changes to their dry-off routine - 3/4 of farmers attending thought there was an opportunity for improvement!
Also, every farm participating in our Dairy Focus Mastitis Control System has developed a Dairy Focus Dry-Off Strategy specific to their farm, and it is significant that we always found opportunities to make a difference.
This strongly suggests that even though drying-off occurs on every farm, every year, and often several times a year, just doing it the way you have always done it may not be ideal.
So how does a Dairy Focus Dry-Off Strategy discussion work?
At the start of every discussion, we discuss the goals for the farm, using the Countdown guidelines as a starting point.
Then we carefully work through five steps in detail - and it is the detail which is important!
In each step, we explain to you what is happening in the cow and her udder, why this step is important and how best practice can reduce the risk of mastitis infections.
How best practice is implemented at each step will often vary considerably from farm to farm - the strategy has to meet the day to day requirements of that farm.
- Timing of drying-off
- Method of drying-off
- Choice of Dry Cow Treatment regime
- Application of the treatment at drying-off
- Post dry-off monitoring
Significantly, many farms tell us that as well as making changes to improve their results, the strategy also made the process far easier and much more organised.
For farms particpating in the Dairy Focus Mastitis Control System, their dry-off strategy is reviewed each year to ensure it still meets the current situation and requirements for the farm - because things do change!
For more information on a Dairy Focus Mastitis Dry-Off Strategy or mastitis control on your farm, call Dairy Focus now on (03) 58590706, or send us an email from here.