Best practices when drying off cows

Author: Jack Scallan 

 

The time for drying off cows is fast approaching. Over the next few weeks, a number of issues must be looked at.

 

  • The length of the dry period for the herd in general and individual cows. First lactation cows and thin cows should be given 10 to 12 weeks dry, whereas about 8 weeks should be sufficient for the rest of the herd.

 

  • Body Condition Score (BCS) is an extremely important consideration. Ideally BCS should be 2.75 – 3.0 at drying off and 3.0 – 3.25 at calving. It may require supplementary feeding in late lactation and throughout the dry period to achieve these targets.

 

  • Test the quality of the forage available and, also, calculate the quantity available. This will have a major influence on what, and how much, is fed during the dry period. 68 to 70 DMD silage is adequate to maintain cows at the desired BCS.

 

  • The appropriate dry cow therapy used will be determined by the SCC (Somatic Cell Count) readings during the lactation. If the SCC is high, then an antibiotic treatment will be required by some or all of the herd. If it is low, a teat sealer only, or no treatment at all, may be necessary.

 

  • Well ventilated housing with enough cubicles and feed space to accommodate all of the cows must be ensured. Inadequate accommodation will have a negative effect on BCS and the cow’s wellbeing. Fresh clean water must be available at all times.

 

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