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Dairy Today Healthline

Make a Smarter Mastitis Treatment Decision

May 29, 2014

Determining the causative pathogen before you grab a tube can help reduce overall antibiotic use on your dairy.


By Dr. Linda Tikofsky, Professional Services Veterinarian, Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, Inc.

At a dairy veterinarian meeting on May 7, Dr. Pamela Ruegg gave a presentation titled "How to Help Producers Improve Mastitis Treatments." Throughout the presentation, Dr. Ruegg made it clear that all mastitis shouldn’t be treated the same.

Clinical mastitis is by far the No. 1 reason for antibiotic use on the farm. A study involving 14,478 cows showed that treating mastitis accounted for 40 percent of all antibiotic use. Research shows that intramammary treatment of Gram-positive mastitis is without a doubt more economically rewarding than the treatment of Gram-negative mastitis, so determining the causative pathogen before you grab a tube can help reduce overall antibiotic use on your dairy.

What to consider before choosing a treatment

Pathogen Characteristics: How do we select drugs? Some cases should not be treated with antibiotics – The immune system of the cow is much better at killing E. coli as compared to most Gram-positive bacteria. Research has shown that most mild to moderate Gram-negative mastitis cases will spontaneously cure within 24 hours, without treatment. Using culturing to determine the pathogen can help determine what drug will be most effective, or if antibiotics are needed at all.

Specific Cow Factors: Some cows have characteristics that predict a low probability of cure – History of previous cases and subclinical mastitis, stage of lactation, age and other existing diseases may affect the ability of the cow to cure, even with antibiotic treatment so we should review the cow’s information before automatically treating. To track which cows have a history of subclinical mastitis, you can refer to your milk test sheets to see which cows have had exceptionally high somatic cell counts for extended periods of time. These chronic cows are not ideal candidates for antibiotic treatment.

"It’s not just seeing the inflammation and grabbing a tube," concludes Ruegg. "It’s taking a milk sample and sending that cow to the hospital pen. Then, use the culture results and cow factors to make a final treatment decision."

By considering cow factors before treating and focusing treatments on Gram-positive mastitis cases, antibiotic use can be reduced while allowing you to combat the problem more selectively and effectively.

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