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What is dry cow therapy?

A dry cow is a cow which isn’t been milked for a couple of months. This is a deliberate rest period given to all dairy cows to recover and recuperate. Treatment and management of dairy cows during this period of inactivity is termed as Dry Cow Therapy(DCT). 

Dairy cows are prone to conditions such as Mastitis during lactation. This disease is characterized by inflammation of mammary glands or udders. It occurs due to multiple reasons usually, bacterial infection introduced either during the milking process or from environmental contact. The degree of infection can range from mild to severe.

Mastitis negatively impacts milk quality and its composition that makes it unfit for consumption.

The dry phase is an ideal time to treat mastitis with antibiotic preparations with or without a teat sealant. This treatment known as Dry Cow Therapy protects the livestock against any intra-mammary infections (IMI) that they may develop or may have contracted during the period of lactation and provides a shield against new infections during the dry period.

Sustained Dry Cow Therapy is therefore required to maintain the health of the cows and the quality of milk production.

There are two major types of DCT:
Blanket dry cow treatment (BDCT): involves the systematic use of antibiotic treatment during the dry phase for all cows and is therefore termed as Blanket Dry Cow Treatment (BDCT). This kind of treatment has been a routine on most dairy farms for decades. This has been supported by the fact that dairy cows are particularly prone to mammary infection during dry spells, and that antibiotic DCT provides an opportunity to avert new infections from occurring while treating existing infections.

Selective dry cow therapy(SDCT): is the selective treatment of infected quarters only or all quarters of a cow with at least one infected quarter. This is carried out at the end of lactation. Uninfected quarters/cows are not administered intra-mammary antibiotics.

Lactation therapy or dry cow therapy are major ways to handle cases of mastitis. However, the use of antibiotics in lactation therapy is now being severely criticized due to antibiotic residues found in milk. Consequently, we are now beginning to see a trend towards SDCT.

Dry cow therapy is one of the key measures of controlling mastitis.
Selective Dry Cow Therapy is becoming more popular as dairy equipment, Udder and stable hygiene improve.

There are several dry cow therapy products in use across India. These are to be used under the supervision of a veterinarian. Treatment with the help of intra-mammary antibiotics resolves mastitis and averts new infections from recurring over the dry phase. Usage of alcohol wipes before attaching Dry cow tubes is a hygienic practice that prevents the spread of bacteria and other forms of contamination.

The frequency of mastitis determines the usage of dry cow therapy products. Another aspect worth considering while choosing a line of treatment is the length of the dry period and the milk withhold for the treatment. It is prudent to ensure that the hold is over before the cows enter the milking herd.

More and more dairy farmers are striking a balance between Blanket Dry Cow Therapy and Selective Dry Cow Therapy as a leaning towards a more organic lifestyle grows.

Some steps to follow during DCT:

·      Studies show that most herds benefit from suitably treating all the quarters of the dairy herd at the end of lactation with an antimicrobic mixture

·      Special care in cleaning and sanitizing teats before administering antibiotics into a quarter

·      Administer only approved commercial antibiotic products, formulated specifically for dry cow therapy and available in single-dose containers for intra-mammary infusion

·      Teat sealants may be selected for use in some cows and some herds

·      Ensure a reduction in nutrient intake of cows one to two weeks before drying off

·      Ensure that dry cows are housed in a clean and dry environment

And finally, regularly monitor dry cows for swollen quarters, a sign that indicates intra-mammary infection