Targeted approach for selective dry cow management decision making

Three farmers in north east Wales are investigating whether there is a more targeted approach to dry cow management that can work towards their goal of reducing antibiotic usage without compromising herd health and welfare.

Selective dry cow therapy (SDCT) aims to reduce broad spectrum antibiotic therapy by targeting only cows with an intra-mammary infection with antibiotics and those with a healthy udder sealant only. This has in the past been reliant on monthly milk recordings and individual Somatic Cell Count (SCC), mastitis records, and using the California Mastitis Test (CMT) test on the day of drying off. CMT test is subjective to interpretation and not always carried out to the specifications and the milk recording SCC is an average of the four quarters and could be up to a month out of date.      

In this project the farmers will use the latest technology by carrying out milk leukocyte differential (MLD) testing using Q Scout Farm Lab. Q Scout is a new and scientifically proven portable diagnostic machine that scans milk samples microscopically. It allows for the sampling and testing of each milking quarter prior to drying off to determine whether individual quarters require antibiotic therapy to combat an intra-mammary infection, or whether they could be dried off using an internal teat sealant in isolation. The test results are available in a very quick turnaround, meaning that dairy managers have access to current udder health data allowing them to be confident in their decision making for every cow and every individual milking quarter.

The three dairy herds totalling approximately 800 Holstein Friesian lactating cows. All herds are located within a similar geographical region.

  • Farm 1: 180 all year round calving herd, grazed during the day in the spring-autumn. The herd is a high yielding at 10,000 litres/cow per year. They are milked twice a day and the cell count year average is 165,000/ml. 3-5 cows are dried off each week depending on yield and calving date
  • Farm 2: 300 cow all year round calving herd rearing their own herd replacements. 10,500 litres/cow per year. They are milked twice a day and the cell count year average is 154,000/ml. 5-7 cows are dried off each week depending on yield and calving date.
  • Farm 3: 300 cow all year round calving herd rearing their own herd replacements. 8,500 litres/cow per year. They are milked twice a day and the cell count year average is 176,000/ml. 5-7 cows are dried off each week depending on yield and calving date.

Introducing this new technology to the U.K dairy industry will allow farmers to accurately and confidently apply SDCT, and help reduce the reliance on prophylactic antibiotic usage.