Tempted to delay drying off with the higher milk price?

Dairy processors will sit down over the coming days to set October’s milk price. And, a price rise of 0.5-1c/L could potentially make some farmers reassess their options when it comes to drying off.

A far cry from this time last year, when low prices and a voluntary milk reduction scheme were in play, many farmers may now find it financially attractive to delay drying off for a number of weeks.

As it stands, late-February calving cows are approaching 300 days in milk. In instances where ground conditions allow, and grass supplies are strong, farmers may be willing to take advantage and continue to milk on.

Another factor that is set to influence a farmer’s decision to dry off is yield. If cows are only producing 10-12L/day, the added work and supplementation required needs to evaluated against the potential output.

It’s not all gain

Despite the short-term financial benefits of milking on, farmers need to be aware of the long-term risks. Failing to give a cow an appropriate dry period may lead to problems down the road.

Research has shown that failing to allow for an appropriate dry-off period can reduce milk yield in the subsequent lactation.

In addition, shortening the dry period reduces the time for mammary gland tissue recovery. And, if not careful, farmers may run into issues with antibiotic residues if the dry cow treatment’s withdrawal period is not respected.

Are you tempted to delay drying off this year?

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What influences your decision to dry off your cows?

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Be on top of body condition score

Furthermore, having the cow in the correct body condition score (BCS) is key. ‘Milking off the cow’s back’ may have serious effects on production and the health status of the cow at calving next spring. When under-conditioned cows are milked on, issues arise in relation to: calf and colostrum quality; metabolic diseases; and fertility.

Taking this into account, it’s critical that cows are in a BCS of 3-3.5 at drying off. Using a measure such as body condition score allows farmers to address any potential BCS issues – whether cows are over or under-conditioned.

Achieving this target (BCS of 3-3.5) at drying off has been shown to reduce the incidence of calving difficulties and metabolic problems in the following spring.

Body condition score targets:
  • Dairy cows should have a body condition score of 3-3.35 at drying off;
  • Pre-calving – dairy cows should be in a body condition score of 3.25;
  • Cows should have a body condition score of 3 at calving.