Dry Cow
Nutritional Needs

Drying off is a critical phase in the seasonal cycle of each dairy cow. Cows rebuild the mammary tissue required for milk production in the next season. And build up their natural immunity. Plan for sufficient time to allow these processes to take place.

The 3 stages of drying off:

Involution… or shrinkage of the udder. (About 7 – 9 days following dry off)
Once the cow is no longer milked it causes an initial milk build-up in the udder, and then rapid shrinking. The mammary gland switches from production of milk components, like casein and milk fat, to the production of lactoferrin and immunoglobulins. As these new components are produced the animal’s natural immunity gradually increases.
Dry... (Typically about 20 days)
Following the involution (shrinkage) of the udder, the udder goes into a period of rest. During this period the body is constantly increasing its passive immunity reserves.
Transition... (About 14 days, minimum)
At least 2 weeks before calving the udder begins to redevelop in anticipation of calving and lactation, hormonal changes cause a rapid buildup of new milk secretion tissue, and colostrum production begins. The natural immunity built up during the dry period will begin to decrease as this hormonal surge begins to take hold.

Feed and nutrition for dry cows

Because no milk is being produced, the average dry cow will require as little as 10Kg of dry matter in order to maintain condition. If the cow is light in body weight she may need more feeding. But overfeeding during this period in the hope of building condition may risk additional metabolic issues around calving.

Cows should receive consistent trace and macro element supplementation during this time. It is critical that these are fed in acidic forms only.

The transition period

To ensure good energy utilisation around calving and early lactation it is important that feed levels are rapidly increased back to lactation levels during this period. This is the time to increase calcium, magnesium and (depending on diet) phosphorus, to levels adequate to supply 75% of the lactation demand. These should be strictly fed in acidic forms only. This will ensure the parathyroid gland remains primed to produce the hormone required to utilise calcium, vitamin D, and phosphorous in post calving.

For more advice and understanding of transition support for dairy animals click here.

Other things to consider when Drying Off:

  • Cows should be dried off primarily based on their condition score, it is good practice to dry off lighter cows earlier.
  • Identify cows producing milk with high somatic cell counts, these cows should be dried off early in order to prevent milk SCC grading and to allow them to build additional reserves of immunity for the next season.
  • This is a good time to either treat (dry cow therapy) or cull cows that have a history of mastitis.
  • Consider teat sealing, normally a keratin plug forms in the teat canal naturally, however this seal fails to develop in up to 20% of teats, leaving the udder exposed to infection.

Every farm is different. Herds are drying off at different times, have different diets and differing deficiency challenges. Use a custom mineral blend to support the specific needs of your herd at this key time.

If you are planning for the dry period - ask your vet for an Agvance Customizer premix solution, or contact us directly for more information.