The Vet Space Journal

Cow Holiday Season

Hazell Mullins | November 11th, 2020

I cannot believe It’s that time of the year again, the sight of dry cow tube and sealer buckets filling the drugs room is gentle reminder that spring is only a mere few months away. Every year it catches me by surprise, one minute there is floor space to walk around the clinic and the next, the place comes with its own safety risk assessment. I doubt our clinic is the only one like this in Ireland and perhaps it rings a bell.


The dry cow consults from Animal health Ireland certainly grew legs this year and it’s a wonderful aid for farmers to avail of to reduce risk and fear associated with sealer only dry cow treatment. I feel my knowledge and understanding of the drying off process has grown exponentially since undertaking the training and undertaking the consults. The best thing is that it is completely free to the farmer and the time engaging is unvaluable for both of us. I had 10 farmers assign me to carry out their consult which for me was a great honour as it shows that there is a trust in existence between us which has formed over the years.

As these consults are relevantly new venture for AHI I was a little nervous in the preparation for them as I didn’t want to leave down my farmers. It’s a big responsibility to put into our hands as vets to teach and encourage good practice, which I feel we are all able for this challenge with a little preparation. I will be the first person to admit that I do not use data available to me enough in practice unlike my colleagues in the UK, where data analysis is a daily requirement. ICBF herd plus is a wonderful asset to have farmers signed up to, in order to access their milk records etc, there is a wealth of knowledge at our fingertips.

The consult requires you to delve into the milk records for the particular farm in order to establish a list of eligible cows to dry off using sealer only. In the process you are required to looks at stats and figures on their numerous cell check reports to monitor cell counts and clinical mastitis cases. I really enjoy this investigative type work and is something that I can use going forward now that I am more familiar with it. With every consult it gets easier and you know what points to really highlight. There is one question at the end asking the farmer “How do you feel about not using antibiotics in the dry off process?”, it’s my favourite questions as its out of the normal factual style of questioning and it always throws the farmers. In all of the 8/10 I have completed thus far the word “Nervous” has been in the answer.  This is a natural emotion to feel when something is new, and routine is been changed. Most farmer end the comment in “But I am willing to try” and that’s all we can do and try our best whilst doing so.

I spoke with Tommy Heffernan on our latest Vet Space Irelands podcast about our roles as vets in educating and encouraging responsible use of antibiotics. The consult is prime example of how we can advise farmers and we know our farmers more than we think and we should praise where praise is due. Acknowledging anxiety is another important aspect of our job and we have to break down each fear and try to establish a risk assessment to overcome them. I usually recommend for the first year no more than 10% of the herd with sealer only which minimises risk and manages expectations.

I have really enjoyed getting on farm and having these discussions, sometimes with the depends of spring and tb testing I miss out on quality time on farm for these discussions. This topic goes beyond mere hygiene advice, communication skills are tested, and a vet’s understanding of farmer mind sets is critically important.  The AHI cell check program describes the concept to a tee; build awareness, build capacity, evaluate change, establish best proactive and set achievable goals.

All the criteria and tips for selective dry cow are available on the AHI website – check it out here.


In other news this week, I made my first reel- BE WARNED lots more to come. I hope everyone is doing ok during this second lock down, as vets we keep busy but it still affects our personal lives. Tomorrow go grab yourself a posh coffee, I promise it will make your day better.

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