Selective dry cow therapy project – Holebrook Farm

Reducing antibiotic use is becoming increasingly important on UK dairy farms with many processors setting stricter targets on total antimicrobial use. A Farming Connect Focus site project has been looking at how the farm with the aid of their vet can implement a successful SDCT program. Neil Evans from Holebrook farm, milks 180 Cows within an All Year Round (AYR) calving flying herd system in Wrexham. Neil was nervous of using SDCT as part of his Dry Cow therapy, but with the support of his local vet practice Lambert Leonard and May he has so far managed to reduce antibiotic use in the period between March to August 2018 by 39.5%, compared to the same period last year which was equivalent to treating 28 less cows or 112 antibiotic dry cow tubes.

The assistance and advice from the initial weekly dry off visits by the practice’s dedicated Vet Technician team has raised Neil’s confidence in the technique, to the point where SDCT is now the standard procedure at drying off. Neil and his staff are now trained in assessing cell count information and how to implement SDCT on their own cows – although for the benefit of the Farming Connect project the vet team will continue to do the drying off for the full year.   All cows treated with dry cow antibiotic were also sealed with a sealant, whilst selected low cell count cows with a sealant only.

Selective Dry Cow Therapy at Holebrook was carried out in two stages:-


1: Selecting Cows


Knowing your enemy is Key, bacteriology tests on the type of mastitis causing bacteria on your farm can give you an idea of what you are protecting your cows against, it’s recommended that if the contagious Staph Aureus is found, SDCT should not be considered until the cause has been addressed.  Clinical mastitis samples were collected and frozen at Holebrook then analysed in the lab for the offending bacteria.

A cautious approach to SDCT is key especially at the beginning. Full monthly recording data along with accurate mastitis treatment records is essential when looking back through Somatic Cell Count (SCC) values during the current and previous lactations. Cows at Holebrook Farm who had a lactation average SCC of over 100,000 or had a case of clinical mastitis in the later part of her lactation were not considered for SDCT, whilst cows who averaged low for the lactation but spiked with 200,000+ cells during one recording were put forward for QScout analysis.

QScout is a new and accurate method of identifying subclinical mastitis in cows at quarter level, meaning individual quarters can be identified and treated during lactation and at drying off. Results using the QScout machine are instant and was used on certain cows at Holebrook Farm on a short trial basis during certain weeks of availability. This successfully highlighted individual quarters with high cell count just prior to drying off, however during the initial stage of the project all four quarters were treated with a dry cow tube and sealant as a precaution. It is hoped that certain cows in future will only be tubed and sealed with both treatments on individual offending quarters. Teat end scoring was also carried out on all cows at drying off and any animals with teat damage or warts were treated with both antibiotic and sealant regardless of SCC values.

The project however has highlighted a need for targeted software for farmers to help analyse and interpret the large volume of lactation and SCC data, previous treatments etc to assist with selecting cows for sealant only treatment. This is especially true for larger herds. Record keeping of treated cows and especially of infected ¼ is key to see if there is a pattern.



2: Strict protocols at drying off


Cleanliness and method are key during dry cow treatment, regardless if done with antibiotic or not. Cows should be as clean as possible, whilst also ensuring that the milking parlour where cows are treated is also clean and dry.


Selective Dry Cow Therapy Protocol at Holebrook farm

Booking the call:

The visit needs to be pre-arranged with the Mr Evans, ensuring all cows treated have been selected by the farmer, vet and the vet tech.



  • Orbeseal
  • Surgical Spirit
  • Tub for Surgical Spirit to soak cotton wool
  • Cotton Wool
  • Tail Tape (colour agreed with farmer)
  • Paper Towel
  • Teat dip
  • PPE Gloves / examination sleeves and clean parlour top.


Prior to administering SCDT:

  • Cows to be sorted during morning milking and kept in the AI stalls until drying off. Vet Tech to arrive at 7am.
  • The area used should be clean and safe (cows to go back through the parlour)
  • Ensure you always wear gloves
  • Get all equipment ready for use, confirm the correct treatment / sealant for the individual cows.



1.            Pre-dip cows and wipe with paper towel.

2.            Wipe teat end with surgical spirit – making sure it is clean working front teats to back.

3.            Administer Orbeseal to those just on sealant first.

4.           Administer antibiotic DC tube to the agreed cows.

4.            Administer Orbeseal to all cows drying off. Once Orbeseal has been administered, post-dip teats.

5.            Tail tape the treated cow to ensure farmers can easily identify on calving.


Fig 1. Cotton wool and surgical spirits to clean teats working from back teats to front, essential floor is clean to avoid kicking up dung during any stamping. Removable sleeves worn and replaced if dirty between cows to avoid dirty sleeves contaminating teat end.


Fig 2. Sealant applied back to front in the same order every time. If the sealant nozzle is soiled it is discarded.


Fig 3. Teat is squeezed at the top to ensure the teat canal is sealed. Sealant can be seen here at the teat opening


Fig 4. Post treatment dip with post milking ready mixed iodine spray. However it is worth noting that certain products react with the sealant, it is advised to seek further guidance from the dip/spray manufacturer.



3. Results of cows calved since trial started and post calving cell count results 


Table Key –

Green = cows tested on Q scout and clear

 Red = cows tested on Q scout and positive to higher cell counts. 

Highlighted yellow = cows with high cell count 1st test result post calving

MIL = Million


Cell count results


Table 1. Initial individual results of cows dried off at Holebrook farm