Dairy farmers tend to have a love/hate relationship with drying off cows.
On the one hand it is a difficult, unpleasant and time-consuming task, whereas, on the other hand, every cow dried off is one less cow to milk over the following days.
Here are some tips for making the job easier.
1. Don’t get hangry
Hangry is when you are hungry and angry. If drying off a batch of cows, make sure you have eaten beforehand.
So, if you normally have breakfast after morning milking, don’t go straight into drying off cows after the last row is milked. Instead, finish off washing the plant, go and get breakfast and then come back to drying off as a separate task.
2. Know your limits
Drying off too many cows at once will add to frustration and could tempt some people into taking shortcuts with protocol, technique and procedure.
How many one person can handle in one sitting will vary, but, generally speaking, the maximum is 15 to 20 before fatigue sets in. That means the most two people can dry off is 40 cows.
3. See what you are doing
A head torch is very useful at drying off to give extra visibility of the teats. Surgeons wear head torches when performing an operation and farmers need to treat drying off like a surgical procedure.
4. Use cotton wool
Cotton wool steeped in methylated spirits is very effective at cleaning and disinfecting teat ends. Other products are good at disinfecting, but not very effective at cleaning.
Rolls of cotton wool can be purchased at farm stores or equine stores and methylated spirits can be purchased at DIY, hardware stores and vet practices.
Tear off balls of cotton wool and put them into a freezer bag and then add methylated spirits to the bag. The wipes that come with teat sealers and antibiotic tubes aren’t good enough.
5. Don’t use cold tubes
It’s difficult to squeeze the dry cow antibiotic and teat sealer tubes if they are cold (below room temperature).
Some farmers will warm them up to room temperature to make them easier to squeeze. They do this by leaving them in a warm room overnight. Do not place tubes in a bucket of warm water, as the water could ingress to the product.
Other farmers heat the tubes by placing a bucket of tubes into a bucket of warm water. A potential issue with this is that the tubes are not heating at the same temperature and those at the bottom of the bucket are going to get warmer than those at the top, which might affect the efficacy of the sealer.
6. Hold cows in yard
Hold the cows in a yard for a few hours after drying off before letting them back to clean cubicles to allow the teat ends to close after being tubed.