Well, Spice is off to dryer, greener pastures today. No, wait, that sounds like she’s dead. She’s not; it was just drying off day for her. Spice calved last in November, and has helped us raise 5 healthy calves this lactation. She’s due with her next calf in late October, so we thought it was time to give her a well-deserved break, get her out of the mud that has accumulated here at our place, and send her to our other pasture, where it’s dryer and she’ll have plenty of grass to nom on.
How a producer handles their dry cows (cows that aren’t currently milking), has a huge impact on how they will perform in their next lactation and their overall health. Obviously, we aren’t a commercial dairy, but how we handle our cows that are going on “vacation” is pretty similar.
Most producers have a standard 60-day dry period. That means that no matter how much that cow may be producing, when they get to 60 days before their next due date, they will be “dried off” and removed from the milking herd. For most cows, this is pretty easy. They have probably been milking for the last 9 – 10 months and have already started producing less milk on their own. Cows that are high producers, may need to be more slowly dried off. They might be milked once a day instead of twice for a few days, then milked every other day, until they aren’t producing anymore. Supply = demand. They also might be fed less or put on a different ration to encourage less milk production.
No matter how they are dried, most cows will be treated with a “dry cow therapy.” Tomorrow and Spectramast are two of the more common ones. These are long-acting antibiotics treatments put into each teat/quarter, after the cow’s last milking, that will treat any existing infections in the udder and protect against new infections during the dry period. By the time the cow calves and starts lactating again, these treatments will have cleared her system and NOT show up in the milk. Either way, most farmers will test a fresh cow’s milk to make sure it is safe to be consumed. Some producers may also use a sealer on the teats to prevent any bacteria from making its way into the udder.
Drying off time is also a great opportunity to give vaccinations, dewormers or do any other health treatments or preventatives. In addition to her dry cow treatment today, Spice was given the following:
- An injection of MultiMin: MultiMin is a supplement we started using last year. It is a supplemental source of zinc, manganese, selenium and copper. We’ve been giving it to our cows two months before calving, or at dry-off, at calving, and also a dose to the calf at birth. These trace minerals are important for reproduction and immunity. Multimin has been shown to help cows in time of stress when they need it most. Research has shown that treated cows transition better as fresh cows, show lower rates of mastitis, have lower somatic cell count scores, and have better reproductive performance.
- Triangle 10 Vaccine: A killed vaccine used to prevent 10 different diseases including BVD, parainfluenza and several bovine respiratory viruses.
- Vision 7 20/20: This vaccine is used to prevent diseases such as blackleg, malignant edema, and pinkeye.
- She was dewormed. Parasites, especially in our current hot, wet weather conditions, can wreak havoc on an animal’s well-being.
Every producer has a different protocol for what they treat their animals with, and every animal may have different requirements. Since Spice isn’t shown anymore and doesn’t go to the dairy while she’s lactating, we don’t vaccinate her with as many vaccines or as frequently as we do our animals that are moving around to shows or are being exposed to cattle that aren’t ours. About a month before Spice is due, we’ll bring her home to keep a close eye that she’s healthy and prepared for her next calf. In the meantime, if you want to get updates on her while she’s on her vacation, check out https://www.instagram.com/spice.the.jersey.cow/ for updates on Spice and her friends.