The Dry Period
The dry period is the non-producing phase between two active lactations. It has the overall aim of maximising milk production in the subsequent lactation (Jánosi and Huszenicza, 2001). How cows are managed around dry-off greatly impacts their health, particularly the udder, during the dry period and in the following lactation. Drying off cows is a necessary process and a critical phase in a dairy cow’s lactation cycle, but can be stressful for the animal and time-consuming for the farmer. AHV has developed an innovative new product which makes dry-off less stressful for the cow, and more convenient for the farmer.
Gradual Dry Off
Drying-off is carried out between 45 and 60 days before the expected calving date. Often, farmers try to reduce milk yield before dry-off by providing a poor-quality diet and reducing the frequency of milkings. This is known as gradual dry-off and can be detrimental to cow health as energy and mineral requirements are not met. This increases the risk of beginning the dry period with a negative energy balance or with a poor mineral balance. It is also hugely inconvenient to the farmer as it involves providing different rations and separating cows into different groups.
Abrupt Dry Off
Abrupt dry-off occurs within one day, with no changes to diet or milking frequency in the weeks before dry-off. Milking is suddenly terminated based on the calving date and desired dry period length. Currently, abrupt dry-off is more common in cows producing less than 12.5kg of milk per day. It is also possible to abruptly dry off cows producing greater than 12.5kg per day, however, this can be challenging to the cow’s health and increases the risk of new udder health challenges in the next lactation (Mezzetti et al., 2020). Research has shown for every 5kg greater than 12.5kg milk yield at dry-off, the risk of a new infiltration at calving is increased by 77% (Vilar and Rajala-Schultz, 2020).
Milk Leakage and Keratin Plug Formation
Abrupt dry-off may lead to increased udder pressure and engorgement, causing discomfort, and may lead to new udder health challenges (Jánosi and Huszenicza, 2001). High milk yield at dry-off is a risk factor for milk leakage and delayed keratin plug formation, and consequently for new udder health challenges (Vilar and Rajala-Schultz, 2020, Dingwell et al., 2001). The keratin plug forms naturally to seal the teat end after dry-off. If the keratin plug is not adequately formed, the teat canal remains open and risks entry of environmental bacteria. Studies have shown that over 60% of new udder health challenges occur during the dry period and the vast majority of them are caused by environmental bacteria (Todhunter et al., 1991).
Advantages of Abrupt Dry-Off
- More convenient
- Less labour for the farmer
- No reduced milk production before the dry-off date (maximising revenue from milk production)
- No metabolic stress before dry-off (energy and mineral requirements met)
Challenges During the Dry Period
Within the dry period, we can distinguish two phases when the susceptibility of new udder health challenges by bacterial infiltration (entry) is particularly high: shortly after drying off and just before calving (Bradley and Green, 2004)
The best way to reduce the incidence of new udder health challenges is through successful dry cow management. A successful dry period involves taking the right steps to prepare the cows for lactation through nutrition, udder protection and adequate housing. Drying off cows is a critical part of the cow’s lactation cycle as it significantly impacts welfare and production. It remains a challenging and complicated activity despite knowing a lot about various dry cow practices. At AHV we have found the solution to your dry-off challenges.
No Pressure, We’ve Got Resolute
AHV Resolute is a unique complementary feed and dry-off facilitator that improves health, management and welfare at dry-off. The product is safe and one dose is sufficient, regardless of the weight and milk production of the cow. Key characteristics of the product are:
- Reduces milk production, therefore less milk leakage
- Reduces udder pressure and engorgement, therefore less discomfort & stress
- Prevents new udder health challenges immediately after drying off, which reduces the risk of challenges in the next lactation
Resolute allows farmers to milk the cow to the end of lactation without reducing milk yield. It is safe to use and very easy to apply. By reducing udder pressure and udder engorgement in high-yielding cows we reduce discomfort and stress, positively influencing animal welfare. Our data shows cows that received Resolute Liquid had one and a half hours more flying time compared to the control group. Changes in lying time can indicate discomfort due to udder pressure. High milk production on the day before dry-off has been associated with reduced lying time the day after abrupt dry-off (Chapinal et al., 2014).
How can AHV Optimise Udder Health at Dry-Off
To support and optimise Udder health on farms, AHV has developed an Udder Health Programme. This approach focuses on a proactive approach by addressing abnormalities in milk recordings and has now been upgraded with a special dry-off programme. Our farm advisors will be happy to discuss these programmes with you and provide advice based on your herd’s needs.
- Bradley, A. J., & Green, M. J. (2004). The importance of the nonlactating period in the epidemiology of intramammary infection and strategies for prevention. Veterinary Clinics: Food Animal Practice, 20(3), 547-568.
- Chapinal, N., Zobel, G., Painter, K., & Leslie, K. E. (2014). Changes in lying behaviour after abrupt cessation of milking and regrouping at dry-off in free stall-housed cows: A case study. Journal of Veterinary Behavior, 9(6), 364-369.
- Dingwell, R. T., Kelton, D. F., Leslie, K. E., & Edge, V. L. (2001, February). Deciding to dry off: does level of production matter. In National Mastitis Council Annual Meeting Proceedings (pp. 69-79). Madison, WI, USA: National Mastitis Council, Inc.
- Janosi, S. Z., & Huszenicza, G. (2001). The use of the dry cow therapy in the control of bovine mastitis. VETERINARNI MEDICINA-PRAHA-, 46(2), 55-60.
- Mezzetti, M., Minuti, A., Piccioli-Cappelli, F., & Trevisi, E. (2020). Inflammatory status and metabolic changes at dry-off in high-yield dairy cows. Italian Journal of Animal Science, 19(1), 51-65.
- Todhunter D. A., Smith, K. L., Hogan, J. S., Schoenberger, P. S. 1991. Gram-negative bacterial infections of the mammary gland in cows. Am. J. Vet. Res. 52:184–188.
- Vilar, M. J., & Rajala-Schultz, P. J. (2020). Dry-off and dairy cow udder health and welfare: Effects of different milk cessation methods. The Veterinary Journal, 262, 105503.
Proactive support for optimal udder health
Below we show the protocol we recommend for optimal udder health. Clicking on the picture will show you more information about the product. We recommend using the products in a programme for optimal results.
14 days before calving
1 week after calving
1 week after calving
1 week after calving
4-8 weeks before drying off
4-8 weeks before drying off
Immediately after last milking
Get in touch!
Would you like to be visited by an advisor to discuss the health challenges on your farm together? Our AHV Specialist will be happy to visit you to jointly assess the health of your cows and come up with appropriate cow-specific advice.
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