Our dairy farming year is drawing to a close. The good weather of the last few weeks has been lovely and we’ve found ourselves enjoying the autumn and winter colours, unusual cloud patterns, the coming and goings of the moon and clear blue skies.
The big job on this week was drying off the first batches of cows. My husband Tim has been having a torrid time with vertigo coming and going, curtailing his ability to do certain jobs on the farm. One of them is drying off the cows, which involves a lot of twisting and turning of the head, which is not good for someone suffering from vertigo.
So our son Colm and I set a day and time for the first 30 cows to be dried off. I’m always on my toes when working with my youngest son and each year there is something new to learn.
The first day he shared his thoughts on the latest podcasts and veterinary direction on the drying off of cows. We walk ourselves through the process before we begin so that we remember just how best to do the job.
New science brings changes and new regulations on the restricted use of antibiotics for the treatment of mastitis means that the drying off of the cow is of paramount importance.
It takes time and concentration to do the task properly
It is the opportunity to reduce the chance of the cow getting mastitis during the dry period and to keep her cell count down which means that her mammary system is healthy which in turn improves her welfare. It takes time and concentration to do the task properly and it is recommended that one person should not do more than 30 cows at a time.
Tim and our other son Diarmuid milked and drafted out the first 30 cows. This was a much easier process this year with the Sense Hub system and the drafting gate.
Then Colm and I came along. It is recommended that you do not milk and dry off together.
We used one side of the parlour for cows and the other for supplies. All 30 cows were getting dry cow therapy and teat sealant. We also had our boxes of disposable gloves. We had spray bottles of teat-dip and methylated spirits ready, rolls of tissue paper and buckets for bins.
Colm had learned a tip from a podcast to wear two pairs of gloves. If one gets contaminated; you can quickly shed a glove and continue
Hygiene is the number-one prerequisite when drying off a cow. The udder must be clean. The operator must also be clean, ie clean aprons and gloved hands. Blue gloves are better than black for showing up the dirt.
Colm had learned a tip from a podcast to wear two pairs of gloves. If one gets contaminated; you can quickly shed a glove and continue. Some experts advocate using new gloves for every cow. We don’t do this as we want to minimise the use of plastic that can’t be recycled. We clean our hands with the methylated spirits after cleaning the cow and then use the white wet wipes that come with the tubes for the final wipe. You quickly know if your hands are clean or not. I wear a head torch to help me to see the opening in the teat.
The cow is sprayed well with teat spray and wiped until the udder is clean. Our cows back legs face into the parlour. I work from left to right, cleaning her front teats first.
Using tissue, well sprayed with methylated spirits; I sterilise each teat. Then, I treat the cow with antibiotic, but this time working left to right treating the back teats first – why? Because you will surely hit the back teats and recontaminate them before treating the front ones. Each tube is only inserted just enough inside the tip to discharge it so as to avoid scoring or injuring the cow’s teat.
Then, pinching the top of each teat, I massage the contents upwards to make sure it gets into the udder. Each teat end is wiped again with meths. Next the sealant is inserted while pinching the teat this time at the base to keep the sealant in the teat.
The new regulations have been pushed out to June, giving us all a little more time to concentrate on udder health
Spray the udder with copious amounts of teat spray and mark the cow clearly. It sounds complicated but it’s just logical.
Still, I remember doing it with Tim 30 years ago. We milked the cow, put up the tubes, marked her and let her off! The new regulations have been pushed out to June, giving us all a little more time to concentrate on udder health.