Most cows need a dry period of at least 42 days

National Dairy Show 2018: Darragh and Aidan Foody (owner) and handler Denis O’Neill with junior three year old in milk winner Sprucegrove Apples Peggy, and Terry Dillon, right, Munster Cattle Breeding Group (prize sponsor) and show judge Edward Griffiths. Picture: Maria Kelly

To recoup some of the production costs of the year to date, there may be a temptation to continue milking cows as long as they keep producing milk.

However, this could prove to be a costly exercise in the long run.

It is important to remember that every cow needs a dry period before she calves again and starts her next lactation.

This is the time when mammary tissue regenerates, repairs, and prepares to produce milk again.

It is also the period when cows have an opportunity to reach the optimal body condition score (BCS), in preparation for calving and the start of the next breeding cycle.

The dry period is also the time when the milker gets to take a break, which is important for their own mental and physical health.

The general recommendation is that cows need a dry period that is at least 42 days long.

To ignore, or significantly shorten the dry period, could have a detrimental effect on the productivity of the herd in 2019.

Shorter dry periods can also increase the risk of antibiotic residues in milk after calving, if sufficient attention is not given to the minimum dry period duration for the product.

Drying off

The steps taken by farmers when drying off cows can have a significant impact on mastitis levels during the dry period and also during the following lactation.

It’s critical that the procedure is carried out correctly.

Items required are a marker, ankle strap or tail tape; milking apron/parlour suit and disposable nitrile gloves; methylated/surgical spirits, and cotton wool or disinfecting wipes; dry cow intra-mammary tubes (antibiotic and/or teat sealant); head flash lamp; and record book/animal remedies record.


  • Wear milking apron/parlour suit and nitrile disposable gloves.
  • Identify the cow and clearly mark with an ankle strap, tail tape or marker.
  • Milk out the cow completely.
  • Ensure that teats are clean and dry.
  • Completely disinfect the teat ends thoroughly with cotton wool and methylated/surgical spirits, by vigorously rubbing the teat end opening for a minimum of 10 seconds. This step is critical.
  • Disinfect the teats furthest away first, followed by the teats nearest to you, to prevent recontamination.
  • Check the teat wipe. If there is a dirty colour, repeat the scrub using a new cotton ball until it is clear.
  • Treat the teats nearest you first followed by the more distant teats to prevent re-contamination. Keep the nozzle of the tube sterile, to prevent introducing new infections into the teats and udder.
  • Insert the tip of the nozzle into the teat opening and squeeze the contents gently into the quarter. It is not necessary or recommended to insert the tube nozzle to its full depth, as this may damage the teat end.
  • When the tube is emptied into the teat, massage the antibiotic up into the quarter.
  • Thoroughly spray or dip the teats with teat disinfectant after treatment.
  • Record the antibiotic used.
  • Make note of the following — cow number; date; product used; and withholding period.
  • If teat sealer is being used in addition to the antibiotic, follow the same protocol as above, except the teat sealer is not massaged into the quarter. Before squeezing the contents of the tube of sealer into the teat, use your free hand to close off the base of the teat, where it joins the udder. The teat sealer is then left in the teat.

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