To maximize mastitis treatment in your cowherd, consider your cow's condition and age. Then begin with pathogen identification, which defines the proper selection of antibiotics and treatment program.
By Linda Tikofsky, DVM
The most effective and economical clinical mastitis treatment is one that takes into account the many factors that can maximize the potential for cure.
For best results, consider the following additional factors:
· The age and the condition of the cow. Is she in the first lactation or her eighth? It may not make economic sense to treat a cow that is not productive or that has other chronic health conditions. Is she in the early stages of her lactation or late? If it is late in the lactation period, it may be possible to wait until dry-off to treat.
· The type of pathogen being treated. Milk cultures can reveal the predominate pathogens affecting the herd. Using these culture results will help you make informed treatment decisions, which may result in more successful outcomes. Work with your herd veterinarian to develop a preventive program, as well as the optimum treatment protocols. If this information is not available, use a broad-spectrum antibiotic that has no known resistance.
· How the antibiotic works. In addition to understanding the biology of the bacteria, it is also important to know the drug chemistry — how it works in the milk and is distributed in the udder. The bacteria’s susceptibility to the drug, and the type and expected duration of the infection are also essential pieces of information. For example, some bacteria live on the surface of mammary ducts, where they more easily come in contact with the antibiotic, effecting a quick cure. Staph aureus, on the other hand, can live inside of udder cells and requires antibiotics that penetrate into tissue.
· Route of administration. For mild and moderate cases of mastitis, a systemic antibiotic is not as effective because penetration into udder tissue is poor. Severe mastitis, usually a result of coliform infection, is often accompanied by bacteremia (blood infection) and in those cases, systemic antibiotics are appropriate. Also be careful in administering intramammary treatments — the less invasive the infusion technique the better. Consider using tubes with tips designed to make partial insertion easier.
· Duration of treatment. Because some bacteria require a longer treatment, keep your herd veterinarian involved to help design protocols that take this into consideration. Rather than indiscriminate treatment, have a well-thought-out plan that maximizes opportunities for cures.
· Supportive treatment. Administering supportive therapies to cows under treatment increases your chances of a successful cure. This includes such things as extra fluids and anti-inflammatory treatments. Consider, also, vaccines to prevent or lessen the severity of coliform and Staph infections.
Dairy producers have numerous opportunities to maximize mastitis treatment in the cowherd, beginning with pathogen identification, which then defines the proper selection of antibiotics and treatment program. Failure to recognize and address these opportunities can result in inappropriate treatments without the desired outcome.
Linda Tikofsky is a Professional Services Veterinarian with Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica Inc., and is based in Ithaca, N.Y.