The importance of giving cows a sufficient dry period

At this stage, a proportion of cows in spring-calving dairy herds have been dried off or at least they should have been anyway.

Talking to farmers over the last few weeks, the majority have already or have started to dry off first-time calvers or cows that are a bit thin.

The temptation may be there to milk cows on but it is best to avoid this as it can have consequences in the long term. Cows need to be given an adequate dry period before calving. If not, problems will arise.

Milking cows that are producing 10L or less and are being fed meal, it might be best to just cut your losses and give the cows a break.

It may seem like a good idea to milk cows for another while, but calving is not that far way in reality and those cows you continue to milk on are more likely to calve down thin which will lead to calving difficulties and other health problems.

Affording cows an adequate dry period

Every cow needs an adequate dry period before she calves again and starts her next lactation.

Ideally, thin and first-lactation cows should be afforded a longer dry period. Farmers should be looking at giving first lactation and thin cows (<2.75) a 12-week dry period, while the rest of the herd can make do with an eight-week dry period.

Reasons for a dry period:

  • To allow cows to build up body condition for calving and the next lactation;
  • To regenerate mammary tissue in preparation for milking again;
  • To optimise the benefits of hormonal changes that occur around the time of calving.

Not only is the dry period important for the cow, but it is also important for the farmer too. A dry period is good for a farmer’s physical health, as well as their mental health before calving starts next spring.

Also Read: Dairy management: Selecting cows for drying off

It is worth remembering that continuously milked cows produce between 20% and 25% less milk in the subsequent lactation, than cows that received an adequate dry period.