The effect of individual quarter dry-off in management of subclinical mastitis on udder condition and milk production in organic dairy herds: A randomized field trial

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The objective of the study was to evaluate the effect of individual quarter dry-off in management of subclinical mastitis on clinical development, behavior during milking, and short-term production loss. The study was conducted as a controlled randomized trial in 5 commercial organic dairy herds. Seventy cows meeting the inclusion criteria were randomly allocated to 1 of 2 treatments: individual quarter dry-off (QDO) or continued milking. The inclusion criteria constituted an increase in somatic cell count from below to above 400,000 cells/mL at milk recording and identification of a quarter scoring of at least 3 and higher than the remaining quarters at California mastitis testing (scale 1–5). Quarters were evaluated clinically for atrophy, swelling, firmness, signs of pain, and milk leakage, and rectal temperature of the cows was measured. Behavior during milking was assessed as average frequency of hind limb tripping and kicking during milking obtained by registrations on video recordings. Milk production loss was estimated based on average daily milk yield for 19 d subsequent to treatment start, with reference to average daily milk yield in 19 d before treatment. The QDO treatment was associated with quarter swelling and increased quarter firmness around d 10 from treatment start and with quarter atrophy around d 40 from treatment start. However, around d 40 from treatment start 35% of the dried-off quarters remained nonatrophic and only 6% of the quarters were completely dry. The QDO was associated with signs of pain related to the dried-off quarter. No obvious effects on behavior during milking of QDO treatment was observed. On average the production loss associated with QDO was 4.1 kg/d (95% confidence interval: 3.1–5.0) greater than for continued milking. The production loss depended on parity, days in milk, and prior yield on the quarter subjected to dry-off (Q1). The production loss increased with increasing prior yield on Q1. For the majority of cows the increase in production loss was below 1 kg of milk/d when the prior yield on Q1 increased by 1 kg of milk/d, demonstrating a compensatory production potential of the nontreated quarters. Early lactation multiparous cows showed the greatest compensatory potential. Further studies into the effect on welfare, cure rates, and transmission are needed to determine the feasibility of individual quarter dry-off.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 2018

    Research areas

  • quarter dry-off, subclinical mastitis, organic dairy cow, yield

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