Successful lactation begins in the dry pen

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An 80-pound-per day herd average and 175,000 cells/mL somatic cell count are not merely the result of luck or happenstance.  According to Richard Long, herd manager for Union Go Dairy, Winchester, Ind., “it all starts in the dry pen.”

When Long started with the 1,400-cow dairy in 2009, dry cows were being boarded off-site and brought back to the dairy shortly before freshening.  “You might say it was a textbook example of how not to treat your dry cows,” shares Long.  “One of the first changes I made was to set up a facility here at the dairy to house them right alongside the lactating herd, where we could keep an eye on them and provide the quality of care they deserved.”

Today, the dry cows at the dairy are housed in a far-off pen of about 100 head and a close-up pen that holds 70 head.  They are fed a highly palatable, one-group dry-cow ration that is high in fiber and low in energy.  The high-calcium, low-DCAD (-10 to -15) ration is supplemented with chelated trace minerals, organic selenium and monensin, with the goal of promoting intake, immune function and liver health – to prevent costly metabolic diseases -- throughout the transition period.

The dry-cow pens are equipped with the same fans and soakers as are in the lactating area. “It’s every bit as important to keep the dry cows comfortable as it is the milking herd during heat stress,” says Long.

Every quarter of every cow is treated with ToMorrow® at dry-off, followed by an internal teat sealant.  When they are moved from the far-off to the close-up pen, every cow receives a Salmonella vaccine booster and the first of a two-shot series of an E. colicore antigen bacterin.  Long says these are important components of the herd’s comprehensive vaccination program to prevent disease throughout the lactation cycle.  They work closely with their herd veterinarian to establish and implement vaccine protocols to protect the herd from respiratory, reproductive and enteric diseases, as well as mastitis. 

The dairy employs two trained hoof trimmers, who trim every cow’s hooves at dry-off, and routinely every 100 days thereafter.  On average, they trim 300 cows per month.  “We think it’s really important to stay on top of foot health, and are fortunate to have our hoof trimmers right her on the farm,” notes Long.  “If we see a lame cow, we don’t have to wait for an outside trimmer to take care of her; we do it immediately.”

Boehringer Ingelheim Professional Services Veterinarian Linda Tikofsky, DVM, says Union
Go Dairy’s commitment to dry-cow comfort and health serves them well throughout lactation.  “This herd is an example of how doing a lot of little things right, every day, leads to sustained success,” says Tikofsky.

Navigating the economic ups and downs of dairying is not easy, and the past few years have been especially treacherous.  Long credits steady attention to the fundamentals of animal care and disease prevention with helping the dairy stay the course in challenging times.  “We never take our focus off of doing what’s right for the animals,” says Long.  “If you take good care of the cows, they’ll take care of you.”

To learn more about dry-cow care and dairy disease prevention, visit BI-Vetmedica.com/Cattle.

Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, Inc. (St. Joseph, MO) is a subsidiary of Boehringer Ingelheim Corporation, based in Ridgefield, CT, and a member of the Boehringer Ingelheim group of companies.


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