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Purchasing Protein & Selective Dry Cow Therapy

2015
17
DEC

Protein prices have eased significantly since winter 14/15 with soya almost 20% less than it was a year ago.

  Soya   Rape
  £   £
Spot Nov 2014 335   188
Spot Nov 2015 260   155
Futures May-Oct 2016 260   162

The opportunity exists to secure these prices ahead as far as April 2017 and further reductions are a possibility.  Whilst it is impossible to predict what the market will do, there is an opportunity to secure a proportion of your future requirements at favourable prices compared to last year at least.  

In previous newsletters we explored the benefits of buying ahead on a little and often basis to reduce exposure to volatility and spread the risk, if you would like to discuss your particular requirements, please do not hesitate to get in touch. 

SELECTIVE DRY COW THERAPY

There is much talk at the moment about selective dry cow therapy, and in fact some milk buyers are insisting that it be adopted in order to reduce antibiotic use on dairy farms.   

There is obviously a cost saving to be made in terms of antibiotic purchase.  The average dairy farm spends £7-8/cow on dry cow antibiotics – that’s £1,200 for a 200 cow herd.  But this saving could be expensive if it results in clinical mastitis problems in the subsequent lactation.

So what is our view?

If your cows have a clinical or subclinical mastitis infection then the best time to treat them with antibiotics is at drying off.  Not only do you have a generous withdrawal period with minimal risk of getting antibiotics in the bulk tank, but the cure rates are generally much better in the dry period. 

Not to say you should wait to treat them in the dry period of course!  If you identify an infection, the sooner you give antibiotic therapy the more likely you are to get a full cure.  If you have a persistent infection then the best chance to clear it is during the dry cow period.

There is increasing evidence that the udder is populated with ‘good bugs’ that actually help to keep some types of mastitis at bay.  There is much work being done looking at identifying the ‘good bugs’ and seeing how we can encourage them. 

At Douglas Green Consulting we are work hard to ensure we keep abreast of the latest independentresearch, so we will keep you informed on the latest finding in this area.

Who should consider Selective Dry Cow Therapy?

Obviously those farmers with a milk buyer insisting on this will need to comply, or find another milk buyer.

As advisors we feel that every farmer has a duty of care to be responsible with the use of antibiotics due to the risks of building up resistance problems in the future.  You do need to proceed cautiously, and some farmers will be able to adopt it more successfully than others due to the subclinical levels of infection in their herd and their dry cow management.

Good dry cow management is essential to reduce the risk of infection during the dry period.  Some measures of how effective your dry period is as follows:

Less than 10% heifers should calve in with a SCC less than 200,000?

  • Of cows that are dried off with a SCC over 200,000 over 85% should calve in with a SCC below 200,000
  • Of cows that are dried off with a SCC under 200,000 less than 10% should calve in with a SCC over 200,000
  • Less than 1 in 12 cows should get clinical mastitis in the first 30 days in milk

If you are not meeting some of these targets then you need to proceed very cautiously when drying cows off without antibiotic dry cow therapy.

If you want an independent assessment of your dry cow management just give us a call and we can do this for you.

Care should also be taken if you have identified Strep agalactiae when testing clinical cases in your herd.

How do I select the cows to target for no antibiotic therapy at drying off?

You need to look through your SCC records and your clinical mastitis records in order to decide which cows to select.  There are some schools of thought that suggest that if a cow’s last 3 SCC are under 200,000, and she has had no case of mastitis in the current lactation then antibiotic is not necessary.  However, some subclinical infections can cause SCC spikes so we would suggest looking at every SCC result during the current lactation to select these animals.  And remember a SCC of 200 could mean that 3 quarters have a SCC of say 50 and the other is infected and has a SCC of 650.

Our recommended criteria are:

  • No clinical mastitis in current lactation
  • No SCC over 150 during the current lactation (with the exception of the first one)
  • Cows are giving 15 litres or less at drying off – we have as yet to see the effect of no antibiotics on cows which may leak milk post drying off, so we need to proceed with care in the short term.
  • Cows which have had no other major health issues (bad feet, poor condition etc) – so may not fight off infection as well.

What should be my drying off technique?

If you are not going to give a cow antibiotics at drying off it is crucial that you:

  • Use a teat sealant and ensure you insert it correctly.  Grip to close off the top of the teat canal as you insert the tube to ensure the sealant stays in the teat canal.  And DO NOT MASSAGE IT UP INTO THE UDDER
  • Trim feet and tails a few days prior to drying off to minimise bacterial challenges at drying off.
  • Drop milk prior to drying off by shutting cows in on straw and water (IN A CLEAN ENVIRONMENT) the day before.
  • Dry off cows as a group at the end of milking – do not try to do it during milking as you are unlikely to be as methodical and hygienic when you have a collecting yard full of cows.
  • Adopt a very strict hygienic drying off procedure to reduce the risk of inserting bacteria into the teat at this time.

The procedure for drying off should be as follows:

  • Wear gloves
  • Clean off any udder/teat contamination and predip teats in appropriate disinfectant – ensure adequate contact time. 
  • Dry teats starting with teats furthest away from you
  • Scrub teats with surgical spirit on cotton wool – ensure good coverage on teat end and again start with teats furthest from you.
  • Foremilk again to clean out teat canal – do closest teats first
  • Wipe again with fresh surgical spirit on cotton wool – starting teats furthest away.  Make sure cotton wool is clean at end.
  • Insert teat sealant starting with closest teats first.  Grip the top of the teat as you insert it to ensure the sealant stays in the teat canal.  DO NOT MASSAGE UP INTO UDDER. 
  • Post dip
  • Let cows out onto clean yard to stand for half hour

It is essential that all staff who are likely to dry off cows without antibiotics are properly trained in the correct procedure.

Environment in the dry cow period

A cow is 5-10 times more susceptible to infection just after drying off and close to calving so environmental management at these times needs to be particularly good.

There are significant cost savings to be made in not using blanket antibiotic therapy on all cows.  And there is likely to be further benefits from the protective nature of the good bugs in the udder in reducing mastitis in the subsequent lactation. 

If you pick the wrong cows, and/or do not carry out the correct drying off procedure, or get your dry cow environment management wrong this could result in an explosion of mastitis, so proceed with care.

If you need help interpreting your mastitis and SCC data to identify cows for selective dry cow therapy, or wish to discuss your own personal situation, please contact Janice on 07789 553427 who will be happy to help.

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Douglas Green Consulting
Brinkworth House
Brinkworth
Chippenham
SN15 5DF
UK

t: 01666 817278
e: douglas@douglasgreenconsulting.co.uk