Reducing antibiotic usage on UK dairy farms following an exchange visit to the Netherlands (Buttermoor Farm)

24 May 2018

Following a EuroDairy exchange visit to the Netherlands in October 2016, two farmers have introduced selective dry cow therapy. Stephen Radford from Buttermoor Farm and James Frankpitt from Rix Farm in Devon are participants in an AHDB Dairy sponsored research project with the University of Bristol.

Stephen and James are actively involved in reducing antimicrobial usage on their farms. During the exchange visit to the Netherlands the group learnt what the country was doing to reduce antimicrobial usage and discussed which practices could be replicate in the UK.

After visiting farms with a short dry period and no dry periods at all, Stephen was intrigued on how he could apply this to his all-year-round (AYR) 165 cow Holstein Friesian herd yielding 11,500 L/cow/year. The farm has a calving interval of 381 days and a herd average SCC of 100.

On his return, Stephen discussed with his vet and together they come up with a plan to trial the shorter dry period. Taking it slowly, he’s reduced the dry period from eight to six weeks for 20 cows.

Cows were selected for the trial based on a criteria that they had no history of mastitis or lameness, Somatic Cell Count (SCC) below 150 and still yielding more than 30L a day. The cows are moved away from the milking herd, which helps them to dry off quicker. All cows receive a sealant but no antibiotics at drying off.

Stephen says: “It’s all about looking for risk factors and then alleviating them or avoiding any future issues. It’s important to get the environment right first before using antibiotics.

“My tip to anyone thinking of trying this is to go slowly and build your confidence up.”

The benefit Buttermoor Farm is seeing from this is that the extra two weeks of lactation means extra milk production. Also by the end of this extra period the cows have decreased in yield which makes it easier to dry them off and reduces the need for antibiotics.

James has also applied this technique to his 300 Holstein Friesian AYR herd, yielding 11,200L/cow/year. The farm has a calving interval of 379 days and a herd average SCC of 130.

James selects cows that for a shorter dry period based on milk production, SCC and history. Any cows with a history of lameness or a SCC of more than 200 will also be dried off normally. 80 to 85 per cent of dry cows on the farm have teat sealant only.

Full details of the exchange visit to the Netherlands can be found here: