Time for a fresh look at dry cow therapy - Veterinary Practice
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Time for a fresh look at dry cow therapy

PADRAIG HYLAND of Bimeda questions whether vets are overlooking the opportunity to help farmers reduce mastitis incidence through dry cow therapy best practice

MASTITIS can cost up to £300 1 a case by the time lost milk sales are taken into consideration. Research has shown, however, that combined antibiotic use and teat sealing can significantly reduce the incidence of mastitis in the 100 days post-calving 2, whilst providing a return on investment of 300% 2. So the question remains: Why do some farmers still overlook the value in teat sealing?

The problem is twofold. Firstly, until the launch of Boviseal there was a lack of choice, and also some farmers have failed to recognise the return on investment from using a seal, which would lead us to believe that there needs to be a lot of education on correct infusion, which is exactly what the company is planning to do.

The effectiveness of teat sealing is well proven but correct administration is key. Teats need to be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected before sealing. Then it’s a really simple process. The seal is infused into the teat canal. It’s important to note that the conventional practice of massaging into the udder after infusion is not employed.

For details on best application practices, the company has developed a website, boviseal.co.uk, with a video guide for correct infusion. The site has a simple step-by-step guide through the administration process and acts as a reminder to the advice given by their vet.

Certainly, the case for sealing at drying off is compelling. Combined therapy can dramatically reduce mastitis post-calving, a claim supported by work carried out by Bimeda and over 10 years’ experience in selling Boviseal in Ireland and Sweden.

Work completed at Waterwheel Farm in Donegal, Ireland, saw a 50% reduction in clinical mastitis cases recorded over a two-year period. In the first year, 60 cows were selected at random, and incidence reduced from 26% to just 14%.

In the second year, the entire herd was treated with Boviseal at drying off and a further reduction was noted to just 9/100 cows. When the cost of treatment was compared versus the average case of mastitis for Waterwheel farm, a 300% ROI was calculated.

Research has shown that a significant proportion of mastitis cases originate in the dry cow period. The majority of clinical mastitis is due to environmental bacteria E. coli and Streptococcus uberis, with E. coli being the most common cause of toxic cases around calving.

Research shows that over 50% of clinical mastitis in early lactation involving these infections stems from dry period infections. It’s why dry cow therapy is so important.

Historically, it was widely believed that the teat canal sealed itself quickly after dry-off. However, this has been shown to be inaccurate. Work conducted in New Zealand (Williamson et al) found that 50% of cows had open teats 10 days after dry off, and 20% were still open between six and eight weeks later.

The average New Zealand cow gives less than 4,000 litres per annum. Therefore, one would reasonably expect an equal if not greater proportion of teats in higher yielding cows to be open.

The data from this study also showed that 83% of mastitis occurring in the first three weeks of lactation originated from dry period infections. Bismuth subnitrate works by mimicking the natural keratin plug within the teat canal and creates a physical barrier to keep infection out.

Typically, using a teat seal will reduce the numbers of cases of clinical mastitis by 25-30%, although in Irish farm work reductions of as much as 65% have been seen.

Mastitis remains one of the most damaging diseases that dairy farmers face. Most are receptive to any costeffective invitation to reduce incidence and losses. The launch of Boviseal provides the ideal opportunity for vets to stimulate interest and improve herd health.

Until now there hasn’t really been a choice. Competition is good for any marketplace and dry cow therapy is no different.

It’s an ideal opportunity for vets to work closely with their farm customers to benefit the herd, the farm business and the practice alike.

Bimeda has created a dry cow checklist that vets and farmers can use to gauge whether using a teat seal will benefit the farm. The list identifies the 10 most important areas in assessing mastitis risk on the farm, and can be found on the website, www.boviseal.co.uk.


  1. Reading University/DAISY.
  2. Godden et al, 2003.

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