Assessing dairy cattle welfare at dry-off
Use this Dry Your Best checklist to assess the welfare of your cows
Teat distances are a strong indication of udder over-engorgement which can be estimated measuring the inter-teat perimeter. As the udder expands, the distance between the teats will increase.
Measure the distance between your cow’s teats (interteat perimeter) with a metric tape prior to the last milking and between 24 and 28h after dry off. This will enable you to monitor if there has been an increase and associated risk of udder pain due to the udder over-engorgement.
A common side effect of abrupt dry off is painful udder engorgement and discomfort. This is because milk production continues when milking stops. This can lead to a build-up of milk in the udder causing discomfort and even pain due to the increase in pressure.
This is noticeable by looking at the shape and definition of the udder (see figure A). The interteat perimeter can be measured as shown in diagram B.
A cow suffering with udder over-engorgement will have a higher interteat perimeter the day after dry-off, compared with the measurement before the last milking.
Check cows that have recently been dried off for signs of milk leakage, those animals are at higher risk of new intramammary infections.
Lying Time and Udder Pain
There are two indicators that demonstrate a significant proportion of cows experiencing udder pain after drying off: lying behaviour and behaviour in response to udder manipulation.