Dry cow antibiotic therapy is used to eliminate existing intramammary infections and to prevent new infections in the dry period. It is implemented as part of a total management system known as the 'Five-Point Plan' for mastitis control. Recent public concerns over the widespread prophylactic use of antibiotics, coupled with an increasing interest in organic farming, have lead to a re-evaluation of the treatment of cows at drying-off. As a result, attention has focussed on the use of novel alternatives to antibiotic therapy at the end of lactation. One such therapy involves the application of a non-antibiotic bismuth-based intramammary teat seal designed for use in cows with low cell counts at the end of lactation. Like the keratin plug that forms naturally in teats of cows that have been dried-off, teat seal forms a physical barrier to invading pathogens. To date, a number of independent studies have shown that teat seal is as effective as traditional dry cow antibiotic products in preventing the occurrence of new infection during the dry period in cows with somatic cell counts of ≤200,000 cells ml-1 at drying-off. This paper reviews the efficacy of teat seal in preventing dry period mastitis in both conventional and organic dairying systems.
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