While incorporating all three components of a comprehensive dry cow program — treat, seal, protect — is important, making sure that the steps of that program are executed correctly is possibly more essential. Employee trainings are great, but what’s really happening in the parlor? It’s one thing to know what you are supposed to do, but another to follow through. The steps of a dry off procedure can seem simple but executing them with precision can be the difference between a successful setup for the next lactation and one that sets your cows up for the sick pen.
As I observe the dry off procedure on dairies, I often use a score card to give a real-time picture of what is actually getting done and not getting done. I’ll share the main evaluation areas of the score card, so you can score your own dry off.
Ready? Let’s get started:
- Keep cows calm. Why? Because if a rowdy cow knocks a tube out of your hand it probably lands in the manure. If you still use it, you’ve just contaminated her udder and exposed her to potential mastitis-causing pathogens. The calmer the cow, the easier she will be to appropriately treat.
- Make sure animals are checked for eligibility and identified after dry off. Keeping track of which cows have been treated with dry cow products — and when — also is critical for avoiding residues during lactation. Note how long each product’s withholding period is and keep treated cows marked until those periods have ended.
- Consistency is key. Your employees should be using the same protocols on each cow, each time, to ensure they’re all receiving a consistent and high standard of care and you’re seeing repeatable results.
- Make sure employees are wearing gloves. And, that they are changing gloves between cows to avoid cross contamination.
- Make sure tubes are clean. You should only use clean, uncontaminated tubes to help prevent introducing potential mastitis pathogens into the udder.
Teat end cleanliness:
- This is where pathogens can enter the udder, so promote cleanliness by:
- Cleaning each teat with a new wipe. While it may be tempting to use one wipe per cow, using a new wipe on each teat helps prevent spreading pathogens between teats.
- Cleaning teats in the proper order. Cleaning teats farthest from you first helps you avoid reaching across the udder and reduces the risk of contaminating a teat that you have already cleaned.
- Recleaning teat between dry tube and teat sealant. This helps ensure any bacteria is removed before the teat sealant is administered and is an extra buffer against cross contamination.
Dry tube administration:
- Administer the dry tube in closest teats first. This prevents you from having to reach across and contaminate clean, untreated teats.
- Massage the udder after administration. This helps disperse the product up in the udder where it can effectively treat existing subclinical infections.
Teat sealant administration:
- Administer the teat sealant in closest teats first. Just like with the dry tube, this prevents you from reaching across and contaminating clean, untreated teats.
- Pinch off the base of the teat before product is administered. Keep the base pinched until administration is complete. This step is vital to make sure the teat sealant does not enter the udder. ORBESEAL® serves as a replacement for the keratin plug, so keep the product at the end of the teat where it can seal out pathogens.
How does your dairy measure up? Download the scorecard and use it in your parlor. If your score is below 70, reach out to your veterinarian and Zoetis representative for training and more tips to improve.
Remember, this assessment isn’t pass/fail; it’s meant to help you identify opportunities for improving your dairy’s dry off program to achieve a healthier, more productive herd. The right employees will care about your dairy and take the time to learn and improve.
For more ways on how you can improve your dry off, watch the Zoetis Learning Solutions training on proper dry cow procedures.