In the latest webinar from Herdwatch, Hazell Mullins of Highfield Veterinary Group was on hand to discuss big changes coming in the dairy industry in 2022, how farmers can begin to prepare for these changes, as well as using them as an opportunity to improve cow performance.  

Herdwatch hosts monthly webinars to provide free, expert advice to both Herdwatch members and non-members, with over 10,000 registrations for the events since their inception in 2020.

The topics change depending on what’s happening on-farm at any point during the year and cover areas such as animal health, breeding management, farm mapping and compliance.  

At the most recent event, Hazell spoke about how mastitis remains one of the biggest challenges facing dairy farmers, affecting cow performance and production.

Currently, the practice of blanket dry-cow therapy is the most common method used to prevent mastitis. This is where intramammary (IM) antimicrobials (AMs) are given to all cows at dry-off in order to treat infected cows and prevent against infection on uninfected cows.  

The Herdwatch members were told how from January 28, 2022, under new EU Regulation on veterinary medicinal products, the blanket use of antibiotic dry cow therapy will be prohibited.

This means the administration of dry cow tubes to all cows in the herd by default will not be allowed.  

Prophylaxis (treating animals with an antibiotic to prevent a disease) will be prohibited and may be prescribed only in exceptional circumstances, i.e. diagnostics or veterinary advice where the risk of infection is very high and the consequences are likely to be severe – e.g. the high SCC cow - but general antibiotic use on healthy animals will not be permitted. 

SDCT: The future of drying off

Attendees on the Herdwatch webinar were told that “hygiene is the main catalyst of mastitis, and no antibiotic should be used to counter poor hygiene”.

Dairy farmers can combat mastitis by using their data, keeping hygiene good and keeping their records in check so they can pick out the cows that you don’t need to use antibiotics on.

Hazel Mullins

Selective dry cow therapy (SDCT), as opposed to blanket dry cow therapy (BDCT), employs a specific strategy to avoid treating every cow with antibiotics at dry off.

Key criteria for success of SDCT:

  • Identifying the infected cow at the point of dry off;
  • Avoidance of infection during the drying off process;
  • Keeping the cow uninfected throughout the dry period;
  • Keeping the cow uninfected at calving.

Key = Hygiene, Hygiene, Hygiene.

Milk recording and cow performance

Milk Recording is the key to achieving successful and safer SDCT. It is essential to record one month before dry-off, or 60 days before the start of calving, to assess SCC of the herd which allows you to monitor cure rates over the dry period.

According to Mullins, “working with your vet or advisor, you should be aiming for >85% cure rate and dry period new infection rates of <10%. Milk recording should be carried out a minimum four times a year; the more recordings the better”.

“Starting to milk record prior to this dry-off to prepare for next year would be a great advantage to know cure rates and new infections rates during the dry period,” she added.

Along with SCC management, improving udder health and reducing the use of antibiotics, milk recording provides excellent detail on cow performance that can be easily accessed and interpreted within Herdwatch. 

Interpretation of this data is critical in the development of breeding plans on-farm in the future.

Using the milk recording and performance dashboards in Herdwatch, farmers can easily select the best cows for dairy replacements, improving the economic breeding index (EBI) overall on the farm, selecting culls and making sure problem cows are not being bred and in turn, reducing SCC.

Selective breeding and SDCT will increase EBI, solids, milk reduction and fertility. Combining and analysing milk recording information in Herdwatch will help to make better on-farm decisions.

Hazell’s top tips for SDCT:

  • Eat breakfast;
  • Be organised – lay out everything;
  • Spotless parlour before starting;
  • Gloves – if possible new gloves for each SDCT cow;
  • Teat score – make sure surface of the teat is smooth;
  • Bucket of cotton pads/make up pads in surgical spirits or else remove wipes from packets and place in surgical spirit;
  • Do not place sealers in warm water to soften – Pseudomonas risk;
  • Stand in clean yard for 30 mins;
  • Remember – treat these cows like surgical patients – embrace your inner surgeon.

Dry Off/SDCT Management in Herdwatch

By using Herdwatch, you will be able to access all of the information needed to select cows to be dried off.

The Dry Off Management feature in Herdwatch gives you a detailed dashboard which includes cows in herd, average herd SCC, cows suitable for SDCT, cows to dry, cows dried, milk record and more.

Herdwatch gives a simplified list of cows that may be suitable for SDCT (however, always check with your vet) as below:

Graphical user interface, application

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These lists are customisable with the use of filters, for example changing the highest or latest SCC threshold or expected calving date to generate a new list of cows.

Herdwatch is fully compliant with all quality assurance standards in Ireland and the UK and allows farmers to record all remedy usage, register calves, cattle movements, breeding records, map your farm and more on a simple to use app.

You too can join Hazell and over 15,000 other happy farmers saving time on farm paperwork and managing their farms more efficiently by downloading the Herdwatch app today.

Click here to download the app.