Throughput: Cattle supplies at export meat plants totaled 35,932 head during the week ending September 18th, 2021 (Week 37). Throughput figures increased by 1,681 head on the week previous and 1,092 head on the same week last year (+5% and +3% respectfully). Supply is steady week on week, and total throughput figures continue to be lower than previous years. Prime cattle throughput also recorded some increase last week; figures increased by 936 head (+3%) on the previous week, and were 7% above the corresponding week in 2020. 

A total of 1,179,525 animals have been processed for the first 37 weeks of 2021. This figure represents a decline of 75,096 head on the corresponding period in 2020, which equates to a 6% drop. Total heifer and cow throughput have declined by -9% and -3% respectfully on the same period last year. Total young bull and steer production have also reduced supply by -12% and -3% on the same period 12 months ago, respectfully


The dry period of a dairy cow should be considered an important phase of her lactation cycle. In the first three weeks following drying off, cows are at a high risk of developing mastitis; they are undergoing physiological changes and are more exposed to bacteria from the environment because the keratin plug is not fully developed for all quarters during this time. Adequate nutrition and appropriate disease prevention of the cow at this time will ensure optimal health, milk production, and reproductive performance during the lactation following calving.

Uses/benefits of Dry Cow

The main aim of the dry period is to prepare the mammary gland for the next lactation. The ideal length of the dry period is 60 days. The recommended drying off method is to:

  • Stop milking abruptly.
  • Reduce feed intake by 50-70% for 2-3 days to reduce nutrient supply and reduce milk synthesis.
  • Feed to maintain body condition through the dry period after milk synthesis has reduced.
  • Dry cows off in good condition with a body condition score (BCS) of 5 to 5.5 out of 8, and maintain this condition score until calving.

Features of Dry Cow

I have been asked quite often about how long a cow milks or if she milks her entire life so I would like to talk more about that. A dairy cow’s primary responsibility is to produce milk. In order to do so, she must give birth (like all mammals). At about two years old, a heifer (young female cow that has not given birth yet) will give birth to her first calf. Up until that point, she has not been producing milk. Each cow is different. Some cows will produce large amounts of milk while others struggle to produce any. We will have cows that milk for a year with no drop in milk production while many others will need to give birth again to continue to produce milk. So on average you could say that cows gives birth each year.

A common misconception is cows milk their entire nine month pregnancy. This is simply not true. Every cow has a “dry period”. The cows is sent on “vacation” for the last 45-90 days of her nine month pregnancy. It varies from farm to farm. On our farm we prefer 60 days. Each cow is unique. Most will fit into that 60 day time period while some might calve (give birth) a bit early or others will drop in milk production so we will send them on an early vacation. We have to evaluate each cow differently. The “dry period” is incredibly important. Why is it so important?

  1. Their health. They need time to rest, eat & prepare for giving birth.
  2. The calf. If they do not have a dry period, they will not produce colostrum. Colostrum is absolutely essential for calf health.
  3. Their milk production. If a cow does not have a dry period, her next lactation her milk production will be negatively impacted. We need each cow to at least produce enough milk to pay for their feed.
  4. Well it’s simple really, they do so much for us that they deserve a break.



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