One of the next major tasks on Irish dairy farms is drying-off cows.

Traditionally, antibiotics play a large part around this time, however this year, because of the new veterinary medicines regulations, that will no longer be the case.

Having been introduced in January 2022, the regulations changed how vets prescribe antimicrobial dry-cow therapy to dairy cows, with an overall aim of reducing antibiotic use on farms.

Herd health plan

According to Animal Health Ireland (AHI), the best way to reduce antibiotic use, at farm level, is to develop a herd health plan.

This should ensure the best possible health and welfare of livestock on your farm, thus reducing the need for antibiotics later on while also maximising animal performance and productivity.

This plan should be developed alongside a vet and be unique to each farm’s personal situation.

Within the plan there should be a mastitis control section, as on many dairy farms mastitis accounts for a large portion of the antibiotics used.


Under the new regulations, the use of blanket dry cow therapy at drying-off is no longer permitted.

Instead, a selective dry cow therapy (SDCT) approach must be used by farmers, with only cows that require antibiotics getting them.

With a selective approach, all cows are considered individually as opposed to looking at overall herd health.

Dry cow tubes will then be prescribed on an individual basis based on evidence where there is a risk of infection in a cow.

This will be determined by your vet and to assess your herd they will need:

  • Records of all mastitis cases;
  • Previous treatments and related outcomes;
  • Any milk quality data including somatic cell counts, bacterial culture and antibiotic susceptibility testing.

It is therefore important that you have all this information recorded and available when you sit down with your vet.

If you haven’t already done so, you should complete at least one milk recording this year to get a understanding of where each cow in your herd stands.

Some farms have already trialled SDCT, while many have not – but having as much information available as possible should make the process easier.