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Herd Management 3 min read

Selective Dry Cow Therapy

Written by Dr. Scott Tripp

Selective Dry Cow Therapy, also known is SDCT, is a technique for drying out cows at the end of lactation. Essentially, instead of giving an antimicrobial treatment to every cow in the herd at the end of every lactation, treatment is given based on either an assessment of the cow or quarter.

Why Selective Dry Cow Therapy?

Blanket dry cow therapy has been the standard dry off practice for dairies over the last several decades. However, with recent public health concerns about the overuse of antibiotics, dairy farms are being forced to look at alternative strategies for managing mammary infections. As a result, selectively drying out cows is becoming a popular substitute to BDCT (blanket dry cow therapy.)

Research has shown that drytube treatment simply is not necessary on every single cow. In fact, cows have to meet one of three requirements before making a decision to treat: (1) The cow had a case of mastitis during the current lactation (2) The cow had/has a somatic cell count greater than 250,000 (3) It’s a high producing cow, giving more than 80 pounds of milk at the time of dry off.   If the cow meets all three criteria then it is at a significantly higher risk and should certainly be given treatment.

However, if a cow does not meet these requirements, there is research that shows that it may be beneficial to hold off on the treatment. This could mean that hundreds of cows are receiving unnecessary antibiotics after every single lactation. Think about, not just the time and money that could be saved by cutting in half the number of cows who go through treatment, but the protection from antibiotic resistance alone might be worth making the switch. In fact, multiple benefits have been identified of transitioning to SDCT and here are just a few:

SDCT Benefits:

  • Make better use of your records- You’ve already got the records, so why not put them to use?
  • Lowers risks of E. Coli mastitis- Studies have shown that when antimicrobial treatments are given to cows with low cell counts there is an increased risk of E. Coli Mastitis. When selecting which cows to give antibiotics to, you can avoid giving them to these cows with low cell counts, reducing your risk for e. Coli.
  • Reduce the risk of antibiotic resistance- Antibiotics are important in the event of serious illnesses, if your cows are building up a resistance to antibiotics they will not help when/if your herd is exposed to other diseases or an epidemic.
  • Time Saving- Only treating a certain number of cows has obvious time saving benefits.
  • Cost Savings- Antibiotic treatment plus the teat seal is a costly drug. Most dairies that have been previously using BDCT will likely reduce their dry cow therapy by 50% when switching to SDCT.

While SDCT is an attractive alternative to blanket dry cow, it certainly doesn’t come without it’s cons. Selectively picking cows to dry out and use antibiotics on demands organization and commitment. You will need to run a report from DHI-Plus that identifies good candidates to not dry treat. It is still recommend to use a teat sealant on all cows.

SDCT it is not necessarily for everyone and absolutely demands a lot of thought and research. Ultimately, it is a management decision. And the dairy’s management should work with their vet while making the decision to practice selective dry cow therapy.

If you’re interested in selective dry cow therapy and have questions about how it works and what kind of software you might need to make a successful transition:

Learn More About SDCT


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