How to successfully prevent udder infections after drying off

  • Do you find more than 10% of your cows calve in with a somatic cell count of more than 200,000 cells per ml?
  • Do more than 1 in 10 of your cows have a positive CMT test at 4 days post calving?
  • Have more than 1 in 12 of your cows developed mastitis in the first 30 days of lactation?

If you have found that you would say yes to any of these three questions, it would be worth you reviewing the steps of your dry cow management and making the relevant changes.

Recent research has found the link between infection during the dry cow period and subsequent clinical mastitis and elevated somatic cell counts (SCC) in early lactation.

We have created a list of 10 steps that will help you make the necessary changes to your dry cow management process

Assessing body condition score

Aim for body condition scores of 2.75-3 at drying off and 3-3.25 at calving1. It is a well-known fact that over-conditioned cows are at increased risk of negative energy balance in the transition period and that this has a direct link with the immune function of the cow2.

High yielding cows

Cows giving 20 litres or more at drying off are more likely to pick up new infections and these may cause problems in the next lactation cow3. If you see a high percentage of cows leaking milk post drying off, it may be worthwhile altering your management. Some farmers have been successful in reducing energy/protein content of feed in the run up to drying off.

Take specialist advice prior to altering feeding strategy, as any major dietary changes can affect dry matter intakes.

Hygiene at drying off

Drying off cows should be done as a separate job at the end of milking. It is essential to scrub teat ends with cotton wool and methylated spirit before introducing antibiotic dry cow therapy or teat sealants to avoid introducing infectious pathogens along with it.

Use OrbeSeal® to ‘seal up’’

Consider using a teat sealant such as OrbeSeal® alongside your antibiotic dry cow therapy.

Treat cows with antibiotic dry cow therapy as advised by your vet. The theory of using a combination of dry cow antibiotic and Orbeseal is that the antibiotic helps ‘clean up’ any existing udder infections and OrbeSeal® ‘seals up’ the teat, preventing new infections right up until calving.

Not all teat sealants are the same. Thanks to the scientifically proven properties of the silica component in the formulation, OrbeSeal® moulds to the shape of the teat canal and creates a protective barrier against mastitis.

After dry off measures

Keep the cows standing for 30 minutes after drying off to ensure the teat canals have closed before the cows are moved to the dry cow accommodation. If possible, house recently dried off cows away from the sound of the parlour to help a rapid reduction of milk production.

Tips for the summer: management at pasture and fly control

If dry cows are at grass, use rotational grazing where paddocks are grazed for a maximum of 2 weeks and rested for a minimum of 4 weeks. This is to avoid build up of harmful bacteria such as Strep. uberis in areas where the cows lie.

In the summer months controlling flies can have a beneficial effect on reducing the risk of udder damage caused by biting flies. As the weather becomes warmer fly populations will multiply rapidly. This can be controlled by regular application of residual pour-on pyrethroid treatments such as deltamethrin (for example Fly & Lice Spot On).

Dry cow accommodation

Good dry cow cubicle management using mattresses which are bedded at least once daily and use of a disinfectant. On many farms all the attention is focused on keeping the milking cows as clean as possible but the same principle should also be applied to dry cow cubicle management.

Hygiene at calving

Calving pens should be cleaned out regularly. It is a balance between providing older cows with enough grip to get up and avoiding build up of infection in the calving pen which can affect both udder and calf health. The bedded area for calving cows should be in the region of 15m².

Involve your vet

Your veterinary surgeon can help you identify which cows to sample for bacteriology and give you subsequent advice on treatment and prevention of clinical and subclinical mastitis.


Selective Dry Cow Therapy: Where do I start?

Metritis: Forgotten about your fresh cows?

Fly & Lice Spot On™ contains deltamethrin, POM-VPS. Orbeseal® Dry Cow Intramammary Suspension contains 65%bismuth subnitrate, in a mineral oil vehicle. POM-V. For further information, please contact your veterinary surgeon or Zoetis, Walton Oaks, Dorking Road, Walton-on-the-Hill, Tadworth, Surrey KT20 7NS. Use medicines responsibly ( Always speak to your medicines provider. AH601/17

1. Finbar Mulligan, WBC 2012, Portugal
2. Hammon, D.S., Evjen, I.M., Dhiman, T.R., Goff, J.P., Walters, J.L. (2006). Neutrophil function and energy status in Holstein cows with uterine health disorders. Veterinary immunology and Immunopathology 113, 21-29.
3. Dingwell et al PREV. Vet Med.63 (2004) 75-89.