Dairy farmers are always aiming to get the best production from their cows and the dry period is the most important time to not ensure not only the best production, but the best quality of milk.
Veterinarian and consultant Mark Humphris spoke at a 2016 International Dairy Week seminar about how to optimise the dry period in terms of achieving the best milk quality and also ensuring disease prevention in cows.
``There is great room for improvement with the dry period … and some of that thinking is born out of the fact that we see very big variations between the performance of herds over that dry cow time,’’ Mr Humphris said.
The seminar focused on dry cow therapy which included what dairy farmers should try to achieve in the dry period, how they can measure performance, what can go wrong and the strategies that can be used to improve performance.
The importance of treating existing diseases – specifically mastitis – and more importantly, preventing new diseases from forming during the dry period, was also a central focus of the discussion.
``The dry time is the best time to treat those infections,’’ Mr Humphris said.
While Mr Humphris said it could be tempting to attempt treating infection during the lactation period, he cautioned against it.
``The chances of success are so low – keep you money in your pocket.
``You’d have to treat 10 cows for sub-clinical mastitis during lactation to get one success – I don’t like those odds.’’
Mr Humphris focused on ensuring no antibiotic residues are remaining when the treated cows re-enter the herd.
The second half of the seminar explored what can go wrong and what strategies can be used to improve calving time mastitis and set cows up for a good lactation period.
Mr Humphris used a graph to demonstrate how risky the dry period is regarding the risk of new infections.
``The highest chance of getting environmental mastitis occurs just after drying off and the rate of new infection goes up significantly, and then goes down, and then up again near calving,’’ he said.
``The dry period is the most critical time of the cow’s lactation cycle with regard to milk quality and preventing environmental mastitis.’’
Knowing the calving mastitis time is one of the most critical ways to measure how well the dry period has been managed.
``If you don’t know your calving time mastitis, I don’t think you can really think about changing your management of your dry cow … once you know that figure you can actually say, `I didn’t do as well this year, what did I do wrong?’.
``If you get the dry period wrong, my experience has been, looking at different herds, that you’ve got a year of pain, you’ve got to wait until the next dry period.’’
Mr Humphris also suggested avoiding the use of teat sealant where possible.
``I don’t like when farms use an internal teat sealant when they don’t need to.
``If you’re achieving 4-5 per cent calving mastitis, without an internal teat sealant, I’d be loath to introduce another fixed cost to your business.’’
Mr Humphris finished by emphasising how worthwhile it is to take the time to prepare cows.
``It takes just three minutes to prepare a cow so make sure you do it properly.’’
The seminar was highly interactive, as encouraged by Mr Humphris, and audience members were willing to share individual experiences from their work.
Mr Humphris consults for Dairy Australia and also highlighted how to use Dairy Australia’s Countdown program, a national mastitis and cell count control program.
For more information on optimising the dry period or to view webinars by Mr Humphris, visit www.dairyaustralia.com.au.