Dairylink: Selective dry cow therapy in Cavan

7th November 2015

Dairylink: Selective dry cow therapy in Cavan

Conail Keown reports from Cavan, where David Brady is taking advantage of his low SCC and is only using dry cow therapy on some of his cows.

David Brady, one of the Cavan-based project farmers, is on target with his grass budget. The plan is to have the farm grazing platform closed by 10 November with an average cover of 550kg/ha.

Average growth rates are still very good on the farm (20kg to 25kg DM/ha) with soil temperatures holding up well and pushing on grass growth after a very mild couple of weeks. No silage has been fed yet on the farm, so cows are grazing out paddocks well with 2kg/day of meal being fed.

Milk solids are sitting around 1.29kg/day with cows in late lactation, while average butterfat is 4.25% and protein is 4.08%. Drying off cows has started on the farm with first-calvers and thin cows targeted first for a 12-week dry period.

David needs 50% of the herd to be dried off before the herd is housed, as he has only cubicle space for 40 cows close to the parlour.

Dry cows will be moved to a cubicle shed which is 1km from the parlour. While it is possible to walk cows from this cubicle building to the parlour, they need to cross a main road which requires additional labour and is tough on the cows and on the roadway, especially when conditions get wet.

Simply drying off some of the cows solves this problem and allows David to keep the milking cows close to the parlour.

Measure to manage

Milk recording data plays a key role in decision-making on the farm, especially when the information is updated to the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (ICBF) database.

Access to the website allows David to make key decisions on herd fertility, health and milk management including milk quality. Cellcheck is available to David, which allows him to use the information on individual cows for selective dry cow treatment.

Dry cow treatment

Dry cow treatment (DCT) on the farm is based around Animal Health Ireland’s selective DCT protocols, which means that David is only going to give dry cow antibiotics to high-SCC cows.

While there is an element of cost-saving in this approach, the main rationale behind the policy is to reduce antibiotic use in the herd, which in turn may improve individual cow response to antibiotic treatment during lactation. This policy of only giving antibiotic dry cow tubes to some cows is going to be used for the first time this year, so it is too early to comment on how successful it is.

Brady dry cow treatment

Figure 1 is from the ICBF website and highlights SCC levels on the farm throughout the year. The average SCC for the year to date is 120, with a short peak experienced in October and November when cows moved into late lactation.

Cows are selected for DCT based on average SCC and cows with an SCC lower than 100 will not be treated with antibiotics. Instead, these cows will get standard teat sealant in each quarter.

Cows with SCC greater than 100 will receive antibiotic dry cow tubes followed by teat sealant. After looking at his milk records, David estimates that approximately 50% of the herd will not receive antibiotic this winter.

Selecting an antibiotic

Milk samples have been analysed to establish the main bacteria which challenges the herd.

In conjunction with his farm vet, David has used the results from the analysis to help select an antibiotic suitable for the herd. Currently, Cefimam DC is used, a short-acting antibiotic which costs around €7.20/cow. Some longer-acting tubes offer five to seven days more cover. However, some of these can be twice the price and David feels it is not necessary on his farm.

Brady's procedure
  • Cows are milked once per day for two days before dry cow treatment.
  • Individual teats are cleaned with methylated spirits and cotton wool/methylated wipes.
  • Cows with less than 100 SCC are sealed with standard teat sealant (Sureseal – €4.50/cow); no antibiotic is infused.
  • Cows with SCC greater than 100 are treated with antibiotics (Cefimam DC short-acting) and standard teat sealant.
  • Teat dip after treatment with disinfectant.
  • Cows are held in a clean area or a field immediately after treatment depending on weather.

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