Make the most of the dry period: Management (part 1)

Posted on October 12, 2022 in Dairy Goat Performance
Editor’s note: This is the first in a two-part series about making the most of the dry period for dairy goat herds. In this article, experts discuss management factors that can lead to success in the dry period. In the next article, they will focus on dry doe nutrition.

Proper management of a doe’s dry period can have significant impacts on the doe’s longevity and productivity as well as kid survival.

Drying off period
Dr. Katherine Taylor, food animal veterinarian with Whitewater Veterinary Hospital, and Sarah (Adamson) Varney, Vita Plus dairy goat specialist, both said they recommend starting the drying off process at 60 days pre-kidding. This provides the necessary time for nutrition transitions as well as mammary recovery and development.

Taylor said a gradual four-week step-down period is ideal for drying does. For example:

  • Week 1: Milk does once daily
  • Week 2: Milk does once daily two to three times per week
  • Week 3: Milk does every few days
  • Week 4: Milk as needed

If does are not dried gradually, Taylor warned it can put too much pressure on the mammary tissue, cause evergreen mastitis, and lead to low productivity for the rest of the doe’s life. Furthermore, a short (40-day) dry period does not provide enough time for the mammary tissue to undergo all stages of involution, potentially limiting production as well.

Taylor said intramammary therapy can be introduced at 30 days into the dry period if the milk is not going into the line as saleable milk. She also said to watch for teat swelling during the drying off period as it could signal a mastitis infection. Consult with your veterinarian for any therapy protocols.

Taylor said she recommends ultrasound evaluation of all pregnant does. Since kidding challenges are more likely to occur in does carrying triplets and quadruplets, its advantageous for managers to identify these does prior to kidding so they can focus more energy and attention to the higher-risk animals.

The veterinarian also pointed out that, if a farm uses pen breeding, managers likely won’t know the exact dates the does were bred. Taylor said, at less than four months of gestation, fetal growth can be measured for a more accurate estimate of the kidding date. This can then be used to identify the correct date to begin the 60-day dry-off period. This is economically advantageous as it prevents dry periods greater than 60 days, which increases the cost of the dry period and potentially lowers production in the next lactation.

Taylor said a dose of the CD-T vaccine should be administered six weeks pre-kidding. Work with your herd veterinarian to determine any other vaccines that should be administered during the dry period to increase colostral antibodies.

Other management factors

  • Bedding: Very dry and clean bedding should be used for all dry does to limit exposure to pathogens and subsequent mastitis challenges.
  • Limit stress: Taylor and Varney recommend avoiding hoof trimming and other stressful activities in the last two weeks to limit abortions.
  • Observation: Walk the dry pen at least once a day to observe body condition and behavior of these does. Daily observation can help decrease the occurrence of pregnancy toxemia.
  • Kidding: Identify any does that had rough kiddings so they can be given appropriate post-kidding care. If kidding in a group pen, it’s best to remove the kids right away to reduce pathogen spread.

Category: Animal health
Dairy Goat Performance