Effect of a single injection of cabergoline at dry off on udder characteristics in high-yielding dairy cows

S Bertulat, N Isaka, A de Prado, A Lopez, T Hetreau, W Heuwieser
Journal of Dairy Science 2017, 100 (4): 3220-3232
In recent years, relationships between high milk yield at dry off, higher prevalence for new intramammary infections, and stress were evaluated. Considering increasing milk yield, dry off methods need to be refined to ensure udder health and animal welfare, especially in high-yielding dairy cows. The present work evaluated the effect of a single cabergoline injection (Velactis, Ceva Santé Animale, Libourne, France) at dry off on udder pressure, milk leakage, and signs of udder pain after dry off. A total of 234 high-yielding (≥16 kg of milk/d) dairy cows was enrolled 7 d before and followed up until 14 d after dry off. Cows were dried off without preparation (i.e., no feed change or intermittent milking before dry off) and treated with a single i.m. injection of 5.6 mg of cabergoline (n = 115) or placebo (n = 119) after last milking. Udder characteristics were measured 4 d before (i.e., before and after milking) and 1, 2, 3, 7, 10, and 14 d after dry off. Udder pressure was evaluated utilizing a hand-held dynamometer. Milk leakage and signs of udder pain were noted as binary variables. Whereas udder pressure baseline values after last milking did not differ between treatment groups (0.541 ± 0.15 kg), cabergoline significantly reduced udder pressure in primiparous but not in multiparous cows after dry off. Differences between cabergoline- and placebo-treated primiparous cows could be evaluated until 3 d after dry off. The first day after dry off, udder pressure in placebo- and cabergoline-treated cows increased by 115% and 42.3%, respectively. Whereas pressure values in placebo cows were highest on the first day after dry off (1.16 ± 0.61 kg) and slowly decreased afterward, udder pressure in cows treated with cabergoline had a slower increase and peak only 2 d after dry off (0.94 ± 0.44 kg). Furthermore, cabergoline caused a reduction of milk leakage, a known factor for new intramammary infections. Only 11.3% of cows treated with cabergoline showed milk leakage compared with 21.0% placebo-treated cows. Additionally, cows with placebo treatment were 2.8 times as likely to show signs of udder pain compared with cows treated with cabergoline. An effect of cabergoline on udder pressure, milk leakage, and udder pain was limited to the first week after dry off. Our data provide evidence that a single injection of cabergoline reduces risk factors for udder health and animal welfare problems around dry off in high-yielding dairy cows with more than 16 kg of milk/d. Further research is warranted, however, to investigate if cabergoline at dry off can also be used to reduce new intramammary infection rates and improve animal welfare after dry off.

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