April 29 2024 10:52 AM

Take a fresh look at dry cow care to bring cows from good to great in the next lactation. Sponsored content provided by Boehringer Ingelheim

The dry period should be a time of rest for cows and is an opportunity for the mammary system to heal and regenerate. But while cows are enjoying their vacation, your dry cow protocols should be hard at work preventing mastitis.

“Cows that are challenged with mastitis will never produce as much milk as they potentially could, if they were free of the infection,” shared Linda Tikofsky, D.V.M., Boehringer Ingelheim.

When mastitis occurs during early lactation, around 60% of those cases can be traced back to the dry period.1 However, with sound dry cow protocols, existing mastitis cases can be dealt with while future cases are prevented. New tools can make a difference, but paying special attention to standard protocols can, too.

The tried-and-true of dry cow protocols
While some tools are well established in most dry cow protocols, Dr. Tikofsky provides a refresher on common tools, plus a few tips that could bring those protocols from good to great.
  • Antibiotic dry cow therapy is key to clearing any subclinical mastitis cases early in the dry period. “About 95% of infections at dry-off are caused by Gram-positive pathogens,”2 said Dr. Tikofsky. She recommends using a dry cow antibiotic mastitis treatment that protects against Gram-positive bacteria including Streptococcus agalactiae and Staphylococcus aureus.
  • Teat sealants prevent unwanted bacteria from entering teats and lower the risk of new intramammary infections. With more than 25% of cows not forming a keratin plug at dry-off,3 a teat sealant is a great supplemental barrier. Dr. Tikofsky suggests looking for a colored teat sealant that can be easily distinguished from mastitis at freshening.
  • Vaccinating during the dry period can send cows into the next lactation with a robust immune system:
    • Killed vaccines keep the dam healthy and enhance antibody levels found in colostrum.4
    • Coliform mastitis is the source of about 50% of mastitis cases in U.S. dairy herds.5 Dr. Tikofsky recommends finding a coliform mastitis vaccine that’s effective against Escherichia coli and the effects of endotoxemia caused by E. coli and Salmonella Typhimurium.
Oral mineral supplements are an innovative tool
An oral acidogenic bolus is an innovative tool for the dairy industry to consider at dry-off. Recent research showed cows given the oral mineral supplement saw benefits months into the next lactation.

In the study, cows given the oral mineral supplement experienced reduced somatic cell counts and lower risk of clinical mastitis. Subsequently, those same cows had a lower likelihood of being removed from the herd after both 90 and 300 days in milk.6

“Most of the time, we only look at the effects of clinical mastitis in the fresh period,” explained Dr. Tikofsky. “But we have seen that the impact of cow care at dry-off is significant well into the next lactation.”

Talk with your herd veterinarian for more information on implementing an oral mineral bolus protocol at dry-off.

Elevate protocols from good to great
“Attention to detail and training are two big traits that keep protocols great,” said Dr. Tikofsky. “Training employees to dry cows off correctly and consistently is important, especially when preparing udders for the application of therapy and sealant.”

Dr. Tikofsky also emphasized that the dairy industry should be thinking about how we pride ourselves on providing customers with high-quality products. “Good milk not only means premiums, it also provides a better consumer experience,” she shared. “Low somatic cell count milk tastes fresher and stores longer than high somatic cell count milk.”

She concludes that preventing mastitis goes beyond keeping cows more comfortable and productive. It is an opportunity for producers to prove their good stewardship and commitment to animal well-being.

1 Green MJ, Green LE, Medley GF, et al. Influence of dry-period bacterial intramammary infection on clinical mastitis in dairy cows. J Dairy Sci 2002;85(10): 2589–2599.

2 Johnson AP, Godden SM, Royster E, et al. Randomized non-inferiority study evaluating the efficacy of 2 commercial dry cow mastitis formulations. J Dairy Sci 2016;99(1):593–607.

3 Ruegg P. Managing the dry period for milk quality. University of Wisconsin. 2011.

4 Smith B, Rieger R, Dickens C, et al. Anti-bovine herpesvirus and anti-bovine viral diarrhea virus antibody responses in pregnant Holstein dairy cattle following administration of a multivalent killed-virus vaccine. Am J Vet Res 2015;76(10):913–920.

5 Continuing market study. Research Department, Hoard’s Dairyman. 2018.

6 Florentino CC, Pena-Mosca F, Ruch M, et al. Randomized clinical trial evaluating the effects of administering acidogenic boluses at dry-off on udder health, milk yield and herd removal. J Dairy Sci 2024. doi: 10.3168/jds.2023-23757.