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Have you looked at selective dry-cow therapy?

With an increased focus on antibiotic resistance, many farmers are now looking at options to reduce their usage.

Fionnuala Malone, Senior Milk Quality Manager with Glanbia Ireland talks to one of the CellCheck host farmers Martin Davin of Rathdowney, Co. Laois about his drying off practices and the reasons why he has developed a selective drying off strategy for his farm.


Why the move to a selective drying off strategy? I could see it coming down the road, and it made sense to move towards using less antibiotics especially with everyone talking now about the build-up of antimicrobial resistance. We only treated 50% of the herd last year and it worked really well.


How long are you doing it and what is your new routine? Four years – it’s working well. We use information from five milk recordings and the ICBF report to select cows that have been under 100,000 cells/ml all year, have had no mastitis and have good udders, teats etc. We then also review cows at 120,000 cells/ml to see if any of these should be considered.


What do you use? We use a sealer on everything. Then we sample a selection of cows and heifers across the herd for milk culturing at Glanbia’s lab, and use the results to pick out the right antibiotic tube for those that need to be tubed.


How does the drying off day itself run? It is days! We aim to dry off between 10 – 24 cows only each day. We find by doing this we have enough time to do it as hygienically as possible.

The week before we select out the cows being dried off, and restrict their diet by feeding straw and silage for a week. This helps avoid having cows running milk. The cows’ tails and udders are all clipped and singed the week before to make them as clean as possible.

On the day, we milk the cows, draft and mark red those being dried off, teat disinfect and then go in to have breakfast. Once we’re fed, we get started. I clean the teats using surgical spirits and strong paper. I don’t like using cotton wool as I find it dissolves and goes everywhere. We then either:

  • treat with an antibiotic, then sterilise again with surgical spirits, and then tube with the sealer.
  • or we just seal the cows after using the surgical spirits.


When we’re finished, we use teat disinfectant on them. We wear gloves – and I have plenty of help. One person restrains the cows, I treat the cows.


How important is milk recording? Essential!


How are your SCC trends going now? This year our SCC is approx. 50,000 cells/mL for the year so we are delighted with our trends and there was absolutely no ill effect on any cows not treated. We now milk record very early to track how the drying off went.


In spring how do you manage the cows? During the dry period we focus on making sure the cubicles are clean and limed. As soon as the cows spring up, we get them into the straw bedded area. We don’t spare the straw. If it is not nice enough to lie down yourself, you shouldn’t calve a cow there. We also feed at night time.


How do you identify the cows that receive each treatment? We mark all cows being dried off with red spray. If they have only been teat sealed then they get a green leg band too. Then at calving, if this leg band is lost, the cow will be regarded as having been treated with antibiotics. We find that’s safer than banding the cows that received antibiotic treatments.

We have been delighted with how our drying off strategy has worked for us and I look forward to having a chat at the event in October with anyone who has questions about my results and any issues I had. It is more work but so easy to manage once you get going. It is probably not for everyone – if you haven’t enough cubicles or you are under pressure for accommodation in sheds, I suggest you wait until these are sorted and you are ready to do it.

For Martin, he feels the keys to his success have been:

  • Preparation
  • Planning
  • SCC Information
  • Clean cows
  • Hygienic drying off technique
  • Plenty of cubicles and cubicle space
  • Liming cubicles



This autumn a series of CellCheck On-Farm Events are being held around the country to prepare farmers for the upcoming legislative changes and developments in the use of antibiotics when drying off cows. These events are a partnership between AHI, Teagasc and the Dairy Co-ops.

Come visit Martin Davin’s farm Eglish, Rathdowney, Co. Laois (Eircode R32 YE00) on Thursday 3rd of October at 11am for a CellCheck Open Day event.

First Published 10 September 2019

Tagged with: Dairy


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