‘Drying off can play a significant role in farm profitability’

Drying off can be one of the most critical times of year when it comes to reducing on-farm somatic cell count (SCC).

According to CellCheck’s Brendan Dillon, farmers need to take drying off cows very seriously.

Research shows that mastitis remains one of the most important animal health issues that directly affects the profit on Irish dairy farms.

Drying off, and the weeks that follow, are a high risk time on most dairy farms for cases of clinical mastitis and Dillon believes it pays for farmers to take more time at drying off and get the process correct.

Profitability

A recent study highlighted the effect that the incidence of mastitis has on the profitability of the Irish dairy industry.

Published in The Irish Journal of Food and Agricultural Research, the study showed that nationally reducing the SCC by 10% would be worth €37.5m to the Irish dairy industry.

As SCC is reduced from over 400,000 down to under 100,000, overall farm returns should increase by 4.8c/L.

The study found that while the industry as a whole is affected by mastitis, the largest component of the cost is incurred at farm level.

In a year of low milk prices, this is something which farmers could consider in their efforts to increase long-term profitability.

Follow the guides

Animal Health Ireland (AHI) has a comprehensive guide on drying cows off which it recommends farmers consult before beginning the process.

This guide includes various pointers about antibiotic Dry Cow Treatment (DCT), practical guides about time management at drying off and cow care after drying off.

Key points from AHI guide:

  • Dry cows off abruptly in batches.
  • Dry off any cows producing 9L/day or less.
  • Allow sufficient time for the dry off process.
  • Use DCT that is suitable for the herd.
  • Ensure clean lying space after drying off.
  • Inspect udders one week after drying off.

Dillon added that farmers must take their time when drying off cows and they should use markers in the process.

He also said that farmers should consider drying off cows in groups one row at a time, with numbers being dictated by parlour size.

From his experience, Dillon has found that it is best to have all equipment organised before beginning to dry off and not to let cows lie down for 30 minutes post dry off if possible.

Finally, Dillon warned that farmers should not heat any tubes before inserting them into the cow’s teat.

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