Sealing The Future

What is the importance of the dry period?

The dry period represents a significant risk to cows. 

Up to 70% of all new intra-mammary infections are acquired during the dry period1.

The dry period is the main time at which mastitis infections are acquired on many Irish farms with infections entering the udder via the teat end. Although the infection is acquired during the dry period, it does not manifest itself as a case of mastitis (or subclinical mastitis) until lactation begins. We therefore can attribute many early lactation infections to infection acquired during the dry period. 

During the dry period, a keratin plug forms in the teat canal2 and acts as a natural defence mechanism to protect against bacterial infections. However, this natural protective mechanism is not always effective. Roughly a quarter of lower yielding dairy cows may fail to develop a complete keratin plug in the dry period. Without this barrier there is agreater risk of bacteria entering the udder3.

How important is the dry period on my farm?

To determine the importance of the dry period on your farm, you will need records of both clinical mastitis in the 1st 30 days after calving and somatic cell counts at 1st milk recording.

  1. Look at clinical mastitis incidence in first month of lactation:
  • Interference level at more than 1 case in 12


  1. Look at cell counts after calving
  • Interference level at more than 1 case in 10


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      1 Green MJ et al. (2002). Influence of dry period intramammary infection on clinical mastitis in dairy cows. J. Dairy Sci. 85:2589-2599

      2 Paulrud, C. O. (2005). Basic concepts of the bovine teat canal. Vet. Res. Commun. 29:215–245.

      3 Dingwell RT et al. (2004). Association of cow and quarter level factors at drying-off with new intramammary infections during the dry period. Prev. Vet. Med. 63, 75-89.