xl vets ifm banner
Calor Static IFM Banner 980x140px

November 2013

on .


  • Because of its importance, prioritise dry cow treatment.
  • If winter feed is an issue address the problem now.
  • Manage your grass to housing date and spring availability.
  • Body condition drives winter decisions.
  • Avoid winter parasites.
  • Feed meals to animal needs.
  • Manage replacements to reach target weights.

Prioritise Dry Cow Treatment
At the end of each lactation the cows udder tissue needs to and can repair itself. Mastitis and particularly SCC levels have been on the increase at Co-op level for a number of years now. The reasons are many. But now is the best time to set a preventative programme in motion for 2014 so as not to cull cows that will be required for expansion in 2015. It will only cost €3-7 per cow, which is very cost effective.
Dry cow therapy results in the reduction of new cases of mastitis by 50-90 per cent. It also heals cows with mastitis, particularly, young cows.
However, a cow that has ‘chronic’ mastitis will not be healed and even with the best dry cow treatment will have mastitis next year. So, giving a ‘chronic mastitis’ cow dry cow treatment is a waste of money. A ‘chronic mastitis’ cow is one that will have had three to four cases of clinical mastitis during this year and/or had SCC levels greater than 400,000 on four to five tests during the year or was high last year and this year.

The decision to dry off cows should be based on:

  • Expected calving dates: Cows need longer than 56 days of a dry period to heal damaged udder tissues.
  • Daily milk yield: Dry off when milking less than
  • 7L/cow/day.
  • SCC: Dry off when cell count is greater than 300,000. Once the herd average is 10L/day examine all individual yields.

As this is a very strenuous job and demands your full concentration to do it carefully and hygienically, therefore, you should only do 15-20 cows each session or each day.
Prepare for drying off by having a policy on the following:

  • Decide which antibiotic to use by consulting your adviser and vet but always follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Table 1 lists some of the common dry cow drugs. Take particular note of ‘duration of action’ time and ‘withdrawal time plus withholding time’ after calving in choosing the product.
  • If the herd SCC level is high get a sensitivity test done (instructions below), and it is essential to use a long-acting dry cow tube to ensure that there is adequate antibiotic for the entire dry period.
  • Change the dry cow tube (active ingredient) every three to four years and do not use a dry cow tube with the same antibiotic as the lactating tube used during the season, particularly if the cure rate was low.
  • Dry off cows abruptly, with no once-a-day milking,
  • It is possible to dry off cows milking 15L/day.
  • Have a culling policy; dry off cow that had three or more clinical cases during the current lactation and/or three or more readings over 800,000 cells/ml, especially if the cow is old, As younger cows are generally not chronic you should CMT test ( a cheap, simple do-it-yourself job) them, prior to drying off, to identify the problem quarter/s. Then treat this quarter with 1 lactating cow tube every 12 hours for three milkings. If there are two or more problem quarters a course of injectable antibiotic may be required, under veterinary supervision,
  • As it is a very strenuous and demanding task only do 15-20 cows at a time
  • Seven days before expected drying off, withdraw meal feeding and reduce grass availability.


The following is the suggested sampling procedure for sensitivity testing:

  • Take a bulk milk sample and a sample from two high SCC cows.
  • Ensure there is no contamination of the sterile bottle.
  • Disinfect the teat ends before sampling.
  • Discard three squirts of milk from the quarter.
  • Strip 1 or two good squirts into the sterile bottle and put the lid on immediately.
  • Submit the sample to your Co-op or Vet lab as soon as possible.
  • On the day, choose a good time, say 11.00 am and adhere to the following routine:
  • Milk out quarters fully;
  • Disinfect the teat end , starting with the furthest away teats, vigorously rubbing the teat end for 10-15 seconds with cotton wool soaked in methylated spirits;
  • Avoid contamination of nozzle;
  • Infuse the contents into the nearest quarters, to avoid contamination, and massage the into the udder to disperse the antibiotic;
  • Infuse sealer if being used – do not massage udder after sealer is infused;
  • Teat spray (20 mls) all quarters thoroughly;
  • Record cow number, date, and product detail( withdrawal time) for each cow;
  • As the cow is most at risk of infection during the first 21 days after treatment, it is essential to keep her in a clean environment or on bare pastures, keeping a vigilant eye on her for new infection; and,
  • Keep dry cowss separate from milkers, if possible.

Teat sealers are non-antibiotic substances used to prevent new infection during the dry period. They are particularly useful for:

  • Cows with extended dry periods;
  • Where there have been new infections in the dry period during the previous years;
  • They may be better than an antibiotic product at preventing E.coli at calving where the risk is high or where there is a history of the problem; and,
  • Cows where the cell count is less than 200,000/ ml and no history of clinical mastitis.
  • There is a lot of detail to be adhered to in administering dry cow drugs correctly, but, because the cost of each mastitis case is €220, it is worth spending the time and care.
  • Is Winter Feed an Issue?
  • Move now to sort out any winterfeed deficit you may have. Using the roughage you have sparingly with meals you can cheaply get through the winter. Calculate the number of tonnes you have. Compare with the amount of silage you require and ask yourself how you can make up the short-fall? You must also get the silage analysed for minerals and DMD, because there is no point in waiting for half way through the winter to realise the silage is bad because the animals are too thin. Silage is dry with good DMDs this winter so some savings can be made.

Feed Type    Roughage (kg/day, fresh)    Concentrate(kg/day)
Poor Hay    5.5    5.4
Moderate Straw*    4.5    6.4
Good Silage    27.5    3.3
Poor Silage    27.5    4.2
Table 2:  Feed allocation, with minimum roughage, for the Dry Cow, 8-9 months of pregnancy and gaining 0.7kg/day liveweight, including calf.

Table 2 outlines the meal feeding levels required when minimum levels of roughage are fed due to shortage. For the moderate straw, the roughage level has been reduced to 0.8 per cent of liveweight. It is important that the required meal feeding be spread evenly over the whole dry period. Attempting to feed all the meals in the last couple of weeks before calving will lead to bigger calves and difficult calvings. A crude protein level in the meal of 12-14 per cent will be adequate on the hay and silage but will need to be 14-16 per cent with the straw. Where cows are in good condition, the level of meal may be reduced by up to 1.5kg/day. But monitor cows’ progress. Make sure to feed a balanced mineral with the feed.
Make Grass Decide Housing Date
Great autumn growth has left many farmers with the problem of having too much grass. Follow the rules – they are no different this year from any other year. Each day’s delay in closing after November will result in there being 13kg DM per hectare less grass on the paddock in March next year. Grass yield next spring will be increased by 0.6kg DM per hectare for every 1kg DM per hectare left on the paddocks in early November.
More than 60 per cent of the last rotation must be completed by the first week of November. If not this will depress spring grass availability. Therefore, take all steps now to achieve this 60 per cent target. This is fundamental advice that must be adhered to.
You should now be grazing silage fields and going into the last five to eight grazing paddocks from November 8-20. These last paddocks will not be grazed until April 6-15, 2014, so they should have plenty of grass then.
All animals must be housed when the average farm cover is at 560kg DM per hectare – no matter what date that occurs in November. No matter where the cows are or how much is on the next paddock, you must obey this rule. Otherwise, you will not have enough grass for early let out next year. I think winter milk producers and extremely compact spring calving herds in the south should leave more (600kg), so as to ensure early let-out on reasonable quantities of grass next February.
On-off grazing is the rule of grazing in November. You must never, ever do anything to cause poaching damage. Only graze cows for three hours/day and then bring them in.
Body Condition Drives Decisions
See last month’s notes for details on how to DIY condition scoring. We did advise you to BCS in Oct, so now you examine the thin cows to see if they have caught up. If not you must get serious about why it didn’t happen. Many farmers are careless about managing cows BCS. Every extra 50kg body weight (one BCS) will deliver 450-600L of extra milk next year, as long as cows remain under BS 3.5.at calving. Feed management depends on the condition of your cows and the quality of your silage, therefore: BCS your herd at drying off and get your silage analysed and feed according to both (see Table 3).

Divide up your cows into three groups, based on condition score (C.S.):
Group (1):  BCS   2.75 - 3.25
Most of the herd will be in this group and will need no special attention with silage 68 per cent DMD or better.
Group (2):  BCS  2.75 or less:
For sure these cows need meal, the amount depending on the quality of silage (see Table 3) and, if calving in Feb must be dried off in early November. A cow that is 2.75 BCS now and should be calving down in early February in a BCS of 3.25 being fed 68 per cent DMD silage; she has 84 days to calving of which there are 40 days where no BCS is added. Therefore, she only has 44 ‘effective’ days for meal feeding and she need to put one BCS or approx 33kg of weight which requires 130kg of meal or 3kg/cow/day for the 44 days.
Group (3):  BCS  3.25+ cows:
As cows that are very fat at calving down will underperform by milking poorly and at going incalf next year, they must be fed restricted or poor quality silage.
Some farmers push on the left over silage from groups (1) or (2) to these animals.
Other farmers will feed only 5-6kg DM per day of silage with straw.  That means only giving them 25-30kg of fresh (20 per cent DM) silage per cow per day plus 4-5kg fresh straw.
Silage DMD                      Body Condition Score at Drying-Off
< 2.5    2.5    2.75    >  3.0
>  72    Sil + 1 Kg    Sil ad-lib    Sil Restr.    Restr.
68 – 72    Sil + 2 Kg    Sil + 1 Kg    Sil ad-lib    Restr.
64 – 68    Sil + 3 Kg    Sil + 2 Kg    Sil + 1 Kg    Ad-lib
60 – 64    Sil + 4 Kg    Sil + 3 Kg    Sil + 2 Kg    Sil + 1 Kg
Sil = Silage     Restr = Restrict

Some farmers see this three grouping requirement as impractical but it will result in three to four more cows per 100 being incalf, less calving problems, less feed wasted feeding fat cows and more milk per cow next year. If separate grouping is an issue with you, then, you must invest a small amount of money in this requirement.

It is most important that:
Each cow has a cubicle, that is, 50 cows need 50 cubicles.
Each cow has 2ft. of head space if being fed meals.
Each cow has 0.75 to 1.0ft. silage feeding space.
Cubicle and yard surfaces are in good repair, kept clean every day.
Access to feeding area is adequate, and not restricted, with an access passage, 6ft wide, from cubicles to silage area every five to six cubicles.
Cows have adequate ventilation, which is enough inlet and outlet area, with no draughts.
You walk carefully through your cows, not looking over the rail, every day to ensure none are sick, lame, stressed, free of mastitis, and putting on body condition.
Avoid Winter Parasites
Fluke: Surprisingly high levels of both rumen and liver fluke are showing up in tests. Consult your vet and/or dose at housing, being aware of using the correct drug. Repeat the dose if immature fluke are not killed.
Weanlings (all) must be dosed for stomach worms (Type 11) and hoose at housing.
Hoose or stomach worms generally should not concent cows and older stock but recently they have become a problem in first calvers, therefore, a dung or milk sample could confirm the exact status. All stock should be treated for lice in November.
The commercial products for the above are well known. Read the instructions. Use the correct quantity for the animals’ weight.
Lameness: is always a problem, resulting in severe condition loss. Use the Farm Relief Service to examine, and act on