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How to have a successful drying-off period

The first few days of the dry off period can prove stressful.

Challenge

Drying off lays the foundation for easy calving and a smooth start to lactation. The first few days of the dry off period can prove stressful due to the changes and not ‘producing’ milk routine has changed. A lot of milk leakage and mastitis is also a concern during this period.

The condition of dry cows should not change. Photo: Roodbont Publishers
The condition of dry cows should not change. Photo: Roodbont Publishers

8 Best practice points

  1. Cows that have just started the dry-off period will tend to release milk if they hear sounds associated with the milking process – move them away from the parlour or milking robot.
  2. Monitor each cow in the drying off period. On the dry-off day, milk production should be below 15 kg per day. With some cows this is the case but with other cows, reduce milk production in a pre-dry group during 4 to 7 days or offer a milk production inhibitor.
  3. Check that her ration is well-balanced as intake in important and depends on palatability and availability of food. Offer dried off cows the far-off ration – for minerals and transitioning to feed easier. As ration that contains only straw causes stress and runs the risk of metabolic diseases like milk fever.
  4. Stocking density, heat, ventilation and clean water availability should be top of mind at all times to avoid stress and ensure food intake is not affected. Daily check rumen fill, leftovers and dung.
  5. The condition of dry cows should not change. Check the drying off cow’s teats for milk leakage and each quarter should be examined.
  6. During drying off the teat canal will close, however, in some 10% of cases closure is incomplete and this poses a risk of mastitis. Drying off without antibiotics can pose risk, however teat sealants can dramatically reduce the risk of infections.
  7. The close-up group: It takes about 4 to 6 weeks for the rumen to adjust to a new ration, therefore it is a good idea to start feeding the milking cow ration 3 weeks before calving.
  8. A successful lactation starts with a cow that is healthy when leaving the dry period.

  • How to have a successful drying-off period

For more more practical dairy farming tips, check out these books.