Dry cow treatment is an important part of udder health on most dairies. With increasing pressure to reduce antibiotic use in food-producing animals, many universities are studying selective dry cow treatment as an alternative to blanket treatment.
Selective dry cow treatment has been used effectively in other countries, and some U.S. herds have begun to implement such a program. The biggest challenge is identifying which cows require dry treatment.
A relatively high cutoff is necessary if using somatic cell count as the selection criteria for treatment due to a lack of sensitivity. Individual cultures are considered to be the most sensitive method of identifying animals that should be treated. Selective treatment makes the most sense in herds with low somatic cell count (<200,000) and no known contagious mastitis organisms, such as Staph aureus and Mycoplasma.
Blanket therapy is likely to remain the most common method of drying cows off for the time being, but it may become necessary to consider alternatives with regulatory changes that are coming down the road.