5 ways managing the dry period can improve udder health

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The dry period is very important for udder health and provides an opportunity to cure chronic infections.

However, there are also some unique challenges that may increase the risk of new infections.

The success of the dry period can be monitored by measuring mastitis and somatic cell count (SCC) performance in fresh cows.


  • Fewer than 8% of cows developed clinical mastitis in the first 30 days of lactation
  • Over 90% asymptomatic “prevention rate” – in other words, less than 10% of cows that delivered high SCC (>200,000 cells/ml) after completing their last lactation with low SCC (<200,000 cells/ml)
  • Over 80% asymptomatic “cure rate”. This means that less than 20% of cows will give birth with high SCC after finishing their last lactation with high SCC.

See: 5 Expert Tips for Dairy Transition Management

About the author

Tom Greenham

Tom Greenham is Director of Advance Milking, a consulting service for all aspects of udder health and milking machine performance. Advance Milking works with dairies in the UK and Ireland to optimize udder health, milk quality and milking efficiency. Mr. Greenham also provides research, training and independent support to the dairy industry internationally.

If these goals are not met, a full review of psoriasis management is recommended. This includes considering the following areas:

1. Cow condition

Some dry season problems are caused by cows not being in optimal conditions for drying out. Problems include:

  • Excessive physical fitness – increased risk of transitional diseases such as mastitis
    • Review management procedures such as fertility, nutrition and drying timing to reduce the number of fat and aging cattle.
  • High dry milk production – this is associated with an increased risk of breast infections
    • During the final weeks of milking, consider feeding strategies to reduce dry-off yields.
    • Decreased milking frequency can also help reduce yield, but should be approached with caution as it can lead to other udder health risks.
  • High prevalence of lactating udder infections, increasing numbers of cows requiring treatment during the dry period
    • If more than 30% of the flock is dehydrated with high SCC, review the risk area for lactation-derived infection.

2. Calcium metabolism

Low calving calcium levels are not unique to Downer Cow Syndrome. Hypocalcemia (clinical and asymptomatic) is also a risk for udder infections in fresh cows.

  • A high incidence of milk fever (greater than 3%) implies a high number of asymptomatic cases, but even when no clinical cases have occurred, the herd has a high incidence of asymptomatic cases. You may struggle.
    • A blood test is a cheap and easy way to check the calcium status of your herd.Discuss monitoring program with your veterinarian
  • Preventive measures tend to be more effective than “plasters” treatment. These include:
    • Consider magnesium supplementation with your veterinarian
    • Discuss partial or full ration of dietary cation anion difference (DCAD) with a nutritionist
    • Consider allocating pastures that do not receive additional potash to produce dry cattle silage.

3. Trace element status

Dairy cows tend to get adequate supply of essential minerals through concentrates or mixed diets during lactation.

However, the supply of trace elements is often inconsistent throughout the dry period and deficiencies develop as cows approach calving.

Low levels of minerals such as selenium and iodine can increase the risk of mastitis.

  • Ensuring that dry cattle feed contains adequate levels of important trace elements
  • If you are concerned, ask your veterinarian about a blood test on a fresh cow sample.

4. Selective Dry Cow Therapy (SDCT)

Focusing the use of antibiotics on potentially infected cows is becoming standard in the UK dairy industry.

However, the procedure for selecting cows to be treated with antibiotics when dry can be inadequate and can lead to poor udder health.

  • All cows should receive an internal teat sealant
  • Individual cow SCC records are essential for SDCT implementation
  • Check if current herd conditions are suitable for SDCT
    • Problems such as widespread S. aureus infections should be controlled before using selective approaches.
  • Tailor selection criteria to the herd’s risk profile
    • The higher the bulk tank SCC, the lower the individual cow SCC should be to reduce the risk of an infected barn being missed.
  • Using Additional Criteria to Increase the Safety Margin Without Antibiotics
    • Dry yield should be less than 20 liters.
    • Cows with papillary keratosis may not be suitable for sealant-only treatment
    • A history of clinical mastitis should be considered.
injected into the breast

© Kathy Horniblow

5. Make sure the environment is suitable

Increased bacterial attack during the dry period increases the risk of mastitis. Minimizing exposure to bacteria is a broad topic, but some important points are often forgotten.

  • Remember to adjust the grazing rate if you are giving birth to cows on the same yard as your transition group.
    • Farrowing cows require approximately 150% more space than dry cows
  • When calculating loose yard capacity, subtract high traffic zones from total available area.
    • For example, a doorway to a sleeping area typically reduces capacity by the space of one cow.
    • It protects wet areas from bedding, so splashes don’t reduce the dry area of ​​the bed.
  • Avoid using a permanent birthing paddock without rotation.
    • Use periods similar to the recommended maximum grazing and minimum rest periods for grazing dairy cows.
    • Maintain pastures with minimal potash supplementation to avoid calcium imbalance.

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