Responsible Use of Antimicrobials in Dry Cow Management

All farmers have a responsibility for the health and welfare of the animals on their farm. Farmers and stock-keepers can play a major role in ensuring the responsible use of antibiotics and other antimicrobials on farms by following these guidelines.

  • All dairy farmers must be totally committed to producing safe food.
  • Dairy farmers should together with the farm’s veterinary surgeon draw up, implement and regularly review a herd health plan that outlines routine preventive measures (e.g. milking machine testing, teat dip, parlour hygiene) and disease control policy, including dry cow therapy.
  • Dry Cow Management is an essential part of a dairy farmer’s routine to ensure the health and welfare of their cows.
  • The dry cow period is a high risk time for acquisition of new bacterial infections.
  • The current concerns over the use of antibiotics and possible implications with antimicrobial resistance mean it is timely to review the concept of treating all cows at the end of lactation to both prevent new infections and treat any existing infections.

Dairy farmers should

  • Develop, implement and regularly review a dry cow strategy for your cows with your vet.
  • Record all mastitis cases and treatments.
  • Monitor the farm’s and each cow’s bacteriological status by
    • bulk milk cell count value,
    • routine screening for bacteria and patterns of antimicrobial resistance
    • individual cow cell counts.
  • Use the monitoring results with your vet to decide the appropriate treatment for each cow you are drying off
    • do nothing and monitor closely for the potential development of mastitis (a health and welfare risk for the cow)
    • use an internal teat sealantAccurate information recording the identity of the treated cattle and the nature of the condition being treated must be kept. Records should also include the batch number, amount and expiry date of the medicine used, plus treatment time and date information for each animal treated and the withdrawal period that must be observed. Medicine records required by legislation must be kept for at least five years (even if the cattle in question have been slaughtered).
    • use a dry cow antibiotic
    • use both an internal teat sealant and antibiotic.
  • Accurate information must be given to the attending veterinary surgeon to ensure that the correct diagnosis can be made, medication chosen and dosage calculated.
  • Dairy farmers will receive clear instructions regarding diagnosis, medication, dosage and administration from their veterinary surgeon. Ensure this is available to all who are involved in the care of the animals concerned.
  • The prescribing veterinary surgeon must be made aware of other medicines being administered to the animal(s) concerned so that adverse reactions can be avoided.
  • Do not borrow medicines or move products between farms. All prescribed antimicrobials are specific to the site and population for which they are prescribed.
  • Do not use illegally obtained antibiotics.
  • Make sure that the appropriate withdrawal period is complied with before the slaughter of treated animals or inclusion of milk from treated cows to the bulk milk tank. The withdrawal time required will be specified on the label of the medicine and is the minimum required. The veterinary surgeon may extend this in certain circumstances.
  • Appropriate information on all medicines used should be kept on file and readily available to stock-keepers e.g. product data sheets, package inserts or safety data (COSHH) sheets.
  • An animal medicines record book/on-line record, copies of relevant regulations and Codes of Practice must be kept safely on farm (e.g. the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) Code of Practice on the Responsible Use of Animal Medicines on the Farm available at

The full version of these guidelines can be downloaded here.

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