Proper Dry-Off Techniques Matter

(File Photo)

This article was written by Brian Miller, DVM, ruminant technical services veterinarian, Merck Animal Health

Cows are at greatest risk of developing new intramammary infections during the dry period. This is due to a number of factors that influence susceptibility of the udder to new infections during this timeframe,1 as well as failure to reduce bacterial exposure at the teat ends. Reducing bacterial exposure at the teat ends begins at dry-off.

Follow these steps at dry-off to minimize new intramammary infection risk.
•    Make cleanliness a priority. The need for cleanliness when administering a dry cow treatment (DCT) and/or an internal teat sealant (ITS) cannot be overemphasized. Introducing bacteria into the teat ends at dry-off can result in acute mastitis infections prior to udder involution.1 Keep the syringes clean and dry. Wear new, clean gloves and replace when soiled to ensure hygiene.
•    Prep each quarter. Start by ensuring each quarter has been properly milked out. Dip all teats with a germicidal teat dip and allow 30 seconds contact time. Dry teats with a clean, dry towel, then disinfect teat ends by scrubbing each with a 70% alcohol-soaked pad, starting with the teats furthest away from you. After cleaning with alcohol pads and visually examining the pads following each teat end scrub, one should not see any color on the pad. The pad should appear white if pre-milking techniques are adequate. If there is color, the teat end is still dirty and should be re-scrubbed until an alcohol pad appears white.
•    Use partial insertion. Partial tube tip insertion of both DCT and /or an ITS results in less disruption to the keratinized epidermidis within the streak canal which is needed to form the keratin plug.1 The keratin plug is the cow’s natural barrier to bacterial invasion during the dry period. Insertion depth of the tube also plays a role in infection risk. Compared to full insertion, partial insertion has been shown to reduce new infection risk by 50%.2  
•    Use blanket or selective DCT. Infuse the teats in the opposite order of cleaning. Following tube tip removal, take care not to touch the tube tip with fingers prior to insertion. Because Gram-negative infections usually self-cure during lactation, Gram-positive infections are the target for DCT at dry-off.3,4 Benzathine cloxacillin, the active ingredient in Orbenin-DCTM, targets and is very efficacious against Gram-positive bacteria. Orbenin-DC is a prescription DCT that offers zero milk withhold post-calving.
•    Use an ITS. Since many quarters have a delay or failure in forming an adequate keratin plug during the dry period, an ITS such as ShutOut™ is often recommended to provide an inert internal physical barrier to bacterial invasion of the teat canal and cistern. ShutOut can be used with or without DCT. The use of an ITS alone, or with DCT at dry-off, significantly reduces the incidence of intramammary infections and clinical mastitis post-calving.5 If using selective DCT, an ITS plays an indispensable role in reducing new intramammary infection risk in cows not receiving antibiotic.
•    Properly administer an ITS. If used alone or following DCT infusion, scrub the teat ends with a 70% alcohol wipe, starting with the teats furthest away from you. Remove the cap, do not touch the tube tip, then pinch the teat where it joins the base of the udder. Administer in opposite order of cleaning using partial insertion. Infuse the entire contents into each teat end using gentle and continuous pressure on the plunger until contents are fully expressed. At removal, deposit a small quantity of sealant into the teat canal. Do not massage the sealant into the udder following administration. Re-apply a germicidal teat dip as a final step to complete the dry-off process.
•    Properly remove an ITS post-calving. At first milking, thoroughly hand-strip every teat beginning at the top of the teat and work downward. Express 10 to 12 strips per teat before applying the milking machine. Bucket milk fresh cows for at least three milkings, if possible, to ensure that most of teat sealant has been removed.
Consult with your herd health veterinarian to create a comprehensive dry cow program. To learn more about Merck Animal Health dry cow products, contact your Merck Animal Health representative or visit

1.    Bradley, A.J., Green, M.J. Nov. 2004. The Importance of the Nonlactating Period in the Epidemiology of Intramammary Infection and Strategies for Prevention. Vet Clin North Am Food Anim Pract. 20(30):547-68.
2.    Nickerson, S.C. Dec. 1, 1987. Resistance Mechanisms of the Bovine Udder: New Implications for Mastitis Control at the Teat End. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 191(11):1484-8.
3.    Arruda, A.G., Godden, S., Rapnicki, P., Gorden, P., Timms, S.S., Aly, Lehenbauer, T.W., Champagne, J. 2013. Randomized noninferiority clinical trial evaluating 3 commercial dry cow mastitis preparations: I. Quarter-level outcomes. J. Dairy Sci. 96:4419-4435.
4.    Johnson, A.P., Godden, S.M., Royster, E., Zuidhof, S., Miller, B., Sorg, J. 2015. Randomized Noninferiority Study Evaluating the Efficacy of 2 Commercial Dry Cow Mastitis Formulations. J. Dairy Sci. 99:593-607.
5.    Rabiee, A.R., Lean, I.J. 2013. The effect of internal teat sealant products on intramammary infection, clinical mastitis, and somatic cell counts in lactating dairy cows: A meta-analysis. J. Dairy Sci. 96:6915-6931.

Orbenin-DCTM (cloxacillin benzathine intramammary infusion) is a dry cow mastitis treatment with the shortest dry period of 28 days and a short tip to minimize the risk of new intramammary infections. For use in dry cows only. Do not use within four weeks (28 days) of calving. Treated animals must not be slaughtered for food purposes within 4 weeks (28 days) of treatment. For additional information, please see the product label.

Bovilis® J-5 prevents coliform mastitis in early lactation. This low-endotoxin vaccine puts less stress on cows and is the only brand with the endotoxin level printed on the bottle. This product contains oil adjuvant. In the event of accidental self-injection, seek medical attention immediately. For additional information, please see the product label.

Copyright ©2020 Intervet Inc., d/b/a Merck Animal Health, a subsidiary of Merck & Co., Inc. All rights reserved.



Latest News

Mastitis in Beef Cows: What You Need to Know

Although mastitis, an infection of the udder, is often considered a dairy cow problem, the disease may also impact beef producers. Here's what you need to know and look for and how to help protect your herd.

We Need More Answers, Veterinarian Says About Biosecurity Research

As a veterinarian, Jeremy Pittman, senior director of U.S. veterinary services for Smithfield Foods, says he is constantly tasked with, asked about and challenged on biosecurity processes or protocols. 

Mineral and Vitamin Considerations When Drylotting Cows

Managing cows in a drylot can be a way to maintain the herd when forage production is reduced. However, it's important to make sure cows are getting the vitamins and minerals they need.

Animal Activist and Former Baywatch Star Found Not Guilty in ‘Open Rescue’

Former “Baywatch” star Alexandra Paul and activist Alicia Santurio were found not guilty of misdemeanor theft after “rescuing” two chickens in 2021. Although they faced jail time, Paul says it was worth the risk.

7 Tips for More Effective Vaccination Programs in Calves

Ask 10 dairy producers what they believe is an effective vaccination program for calves, and you’ll likely get 10 unique answers. That’s OK, because there is no effective one-size-fits-all strategy.

For the Love of the Game, How Agriculture Helped Birth the Game of Basketball

It may not seem like basketball has a strong connection to agriculture, but from the balls used in the NBA, to the sport itself, agriculture has direct ties to a sport that takes over televisions during March Madness.