Dry period of dairy cow is very important during lactation phase. Sufficient nutrition and proper disease prevention is required to ensure optimal health, milk production and reproductive performance. Here are some tips during dry period:
When drying off a cow, the main goal is to quickly end milk secretion and seal the teat canal as soon as possible.
Cows should not be milked intermittently towards end of lactation as this will prevent the teat canal from sealing.
Teat sealant may also be administered to prevent bacteria from entering the teat causing infection.
Dry cow therapy
Cow is especially vulnerable to new infections during first 3 weeks after drying off.
Dry cow therapy can clear up to an estimated 70 - 98% of existing infections and help to prevent new infections.
The prevention of subclinical mastitis is very important as it can precede clinical cases and on some cases, infect other animals.
A long acting intra-mammary antibiotic should be administered to every quarter after the cow's final milking.
Nutrition of dry cows
Nutrition of dairy cows during dry period is very important to maintain body condition score of 3.0 to 3.25.
There should be a separate diets for far-off and close-up dry cows.
Diets for far-off cows should have less energy and sufficient amounts of fiber.
Diets of close-up cows should have more metabolizable protein and energy than diets of far-off dry cows.
Insufficient protein reserves during dry period can negatively affect the cow's health and performance.
If herd is not big enough to separate close-up and far-off dry cows, dry cows can be managed as one group with shorter dry period.
Length of dry period
Dry period normally last around 60 days and involve far-off and close-up period.
Close-up period begins 3 weeks before expected calving.
Some studies have shown that if no dry period is provided for a cow, she will produce around 25-30% less milk next lactation.
Minimize heat stress
Heat stress should be prevented by providing sufficient cooling through fans, shades and sprinklers.
Cows facing heat stress during dry period will have lower milk production in the next lactation cycle.
Dry cows that are cooled during summer can produce up to 10 - 12lbs more milk per day.
Minimizing social and metabolic stress
Stress in general will affect feed intake, health, milk production and immune function of cows.
Social stress can be minimized by having as few pen moves or regrouping.
Feed bunk space should be 36 inches per cow to ensure sufficient dry matter intake and reduce competition for feed.
A minimum of 1 free stall per cow should be provided to ensure sufficient lying time.