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May 2014 Archive for Dairy Today Healthline

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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.

Learn more at

Establish a Biosecurity Plan against Salmonella

May 19, 2014

Four steps to improve control of the tough-to-recognize, disease-causing bacteria on your dairy.

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By Gary Neubauer, DVM, senior manager, Dairy Technical Services, Zoetis

It’s hard to keep Salmonella bacteria off dairies. If it enters a herd, it can be tough to recognize. With warmer summer temperatures just around the corner, now is the time to review your control program to safeguard your herd from potential Salmonella access points.

Salmonella is an intestinal bacterium that can cause significant disease in dairy cattle. It typically is spread from the waste of one animal, then ingested by another. A cow infected with subclinical Salmonella can be a carrier of the disease and appear healthy while shedding the bacteria to others. The disease can have devastating effects on a dairy, and there are limited prevention and treatment products to manage the disease.

Here are four simple steps to help improve Salmonella control on your dairy.

Step 1: Stop the spread

Whenever cattle from another source enter the dairy, pathogens can tag along. Commingling and allowing nose-to-nose contact with heifers from other dairies can allow disease transmission. Bacteria could be living in the cattle or on the trailer or the truck transporting the cattle.

Proactive plan - Establish testing and quarantine protocols before allowing cattle to commingle with your herd. Clean and disinfect trailers transporting cattle after every shipment. Work with the company transporting cattle to discuss their biosecurity measures.

Step 2: Keep rodents, wildlife, pets and other livestock away

Rodents and wildlife can drop by unexpectedly and carry diseases such as Salmonella. Many operations have pets, such as cats or dogs, while others are home to other livestock.

Proactive plan - Although it might be impossible to keep wildlife and pets off the property, take steps to keep animals away from cattle. Wildlife and rodents often are looking for food. Keep feed storage clean and protected to deter animals from those areas.

Step 3: Develop a biosecurity plan for employees, consultants and visitors

People also can bring Salmonella and other diseases to a dairy. Every day, employees, veterinarians, nutritionists and visitors travel on and off operations, as well as to and from cattle pens. They could be bringing Salmonella with them.

Proactive plan - Visitors should not be allowed to enter or go near the feeding areas or pens unless they adhere to biosecurity measures, using footbaths and wearing protective clothing. Veterinarians and artificial insemination technicians also should wear clean coveralls and boots before entering cattle pens.

Step 4: Develop a prevention plan

Evaluate risks and stop the disease from entering dairies. A good first step is to take a risk assessment, such as the short questionnaire found at

Proactive plan - After you take the assessment, your veterinarian can help develop a Salmonella prevention and biosecurity plan. Vaccination is a key component of any Salmonella control program. Vaccines can help prevent a clinical outbreak of Salmonella Newport, as well as help limit economic damage due to subclinical disease.1 Take proper steps to help reduce your risk of a devastating Salmonella outbreak.

Visit to learn more about limiting your dairy’s risk of Salmonella and controlling the disease. Contact Dr. Neubauer at

1 Hermesch DR, Thomson DU, Loneragan GH, Renter DR, White BJ. Effects of a commercially available vaccine against Salmonella enterica serotype Newport on milk production, somatic cell count and shedding of Salmonella organisms in female dairy cattle with no clinical signs of salmonellosis. Am J Vet Res 2008;69(9):1229-1234.

All trademarks are the property of Zoetis Inc., its affiliates and/or its licensors. ©2014 Zoetis Inc. All rights reserved.

How to Find and Manage Cows in the “Gray” Area

May 15, 2014

A cow’s health may be just a bit "off," although you may not see it. These animals will benefit greatly from early interventions.

By Shane St. Cyr, SCR Dairy Field Support Manager

Animal health seems pretty straightforward. A cow is either sick or she’s healthy, right?

As any dairy manager knows, a cow’s health status is not always so clear-cut or so black and white. A certain percentage of animals at any given time fall into a health status "gray area."

These animals do not show visual signs of illness, but they aren’t performing at full strength either. They’re just a bit "off," even though you may not be able to see it. These are the cows that benefit greatly from early interventions.

It may be less complicated to simply sort animals into "sick" or "well" categories, but not all cows fit neatly into these categories because not all health indicators are easily seen by the human eye.

Symptom Lag

There have been many studies documenting that fresh cow disease is preceded by non-specific symptoms as much as five to 10 days prior to the onset of specific clinical signs.

Some can be seen or visually measured like: elevated core body temperature, reduced activity, drop in milk production, decline in dry matter intake and change in milk composition (fat-to-protein ratios greater than 1.4). All of these are signals that indicate a need for immediate attention.1

Meanwhile, other important health-status indicators, such as time spent ruminating, are not so readily apparent, which is why astute managers are turning their focus toward this important parameter and moving away from the black-and-white mindset of animal health.

Rumination Information

Data available via rumination monitoring technology enable users to track rumination levels, which is an early indicator of potential health and performance challenges. An animal’s rumination will often drop 24 hours or more prior to the appearance of physical symptoms, such as decreased feed intake or a reduction in milk production.

Monitoring cows for activity, rumination and temperature can really help with early detection of health disorders, says Marcia Endres, University of Minnesota Extension dairy scientist. "Treating cows earlier will help prevent large drops in production and reduce cow mortality on the farm," she says, adding that access to this actionable data is critical from an animal welfare perspective, as well as a management perspective.

Health Implications

While a "gray" health scenario can occur at any age or any stage of lactation, it commonly occurs during transition—the three weeks prior to and three weeks following calving. This is when cows are most vulnerable to disease and metabolic disorders due to the many social, environmental and physiological changes that take place during this time frame.

Cows often fail to adapt to these metabolic and management changes, resulting in 75% of dairy cow disease incidence during the first month after calving and substantial economic losses to the dairy industry.2

Also, one-third of dairy cows may be affected by some form of metabolic or infectious disease in early lactation.3

The ability to head-off transition disorders has longer term health implications because of the negative and cumulative effects of these challenges.

For instance:

  • Cows with milk fever had four times more risk of retained placenta and 24 times more incidence of ketosis than cows that did not have milk fever.4
  • The risk of ketosis was elevated in cows that had either a retained placenta, displaced abomasum or case of milk fever.4
  • In addition, subclinical ketosis in the first or second week after calving is associated with increased risk of displaced abomasum, metritis, clinical ketosis, endometritis, prolonged postpartum anovulation, increased severity of mastitis and lower milk production in early lactation.3

Making Sense of the Gray

"This technology is really exciting," says Endres. "Not only does it help dairy managers prioritize their attention on individual cows that require extra attention or interventions, the data generated on a herd basis help producers and their management team track larger health trends so they can adjust management strategies accordingly.

"Individual cows become sentinel cows—the canary in the coal mine that signifies when a practice, treatment protocol or other management decisions needs to be adjusted to improve animal health and well-being," she says. "It is helping farmers do a better job."

1 Reneau J. A Fresh Cow Paradigm Shift. University of Minnesota. Available at: Accessed December 22, 2013.
2 Gressley TF. Managing the Transition Cow: Recent Research and Recommendations. University of Delaware. Available at: Accessed December 27, 2013.
3 LeBlanc S. Monitoring metabolic health of dairy cattle in the transition period. J Repro Dev 2010;56( Suppl):S29-35.
4 Chase LE. Management of the Transition Cow. Cornell University. Available at: Accessed December 22, 2013.

SCR Dairy is the leading pioneer of cow and milking intelligence. Monitoring millions of cows worldwide, its data-driven solutions are trusted by successful dairy farmers to deliver the insights and analytics needed to optimize the productivity of every cow. Contact Shane St. Cyr at

5 Ways to Minimize the Threat of Mastitis

May 08, 2014

What have you overlooked when it comes to avoiding infection in your herd?

Source: Alltech

According to the National Mastitis Council, the cost of poor milk quality is not cheap. The average case of mastitis costs a farmer $184, with two-thirds of that amount being due to loss in milk production.

Keeping cattle healthy and protected from the threat of mastitis can be extremely difficult, especially during the summer months. Heat, humidity and other factors can make managing the potential for pathogenic bacteria even more difficult. Poor practices that might be tolerated during cooler parts of the year hold minimal to no forgiveness during the warmer months.

Roger Scaletti, one of Alltech’s dairy experts in milk quality, explains five areas that can keep your herd on the right path for peak productivity and assist you in managing or even working to prevent instances of mastitis in your herd. Udder and teat-end health is critical when it comes to avoiding infection in your herd.

1. Parlor routine can be very often overlooked, as simply getting cows milked two to three times a day can be a feat in itself. When assessing parlor routine, ironically, some of the smallest things can make a world of difference. Wearing gloves, making sure there is adequate pre-dip coverage, and keeping in mind the contact time of pre-dip before it is wiped off can have a significant impact. Are all employees adequately following the standards that you have in place, leaving none out, and completing them properly? Milking clean, dry teats is the name of the game, and all employees should be working toward a common goal.

2. The environment that your cattle are housed in can also play a role in poor milk quality. Are your cows housed in a mastitis infectious yard, or are they in a well-ventilated dry area, with minimal contact to some of the key mastitis-causing bacteria?

3. When purchasing cattle, what kind of screening takes place before allowing these animals into your herd? Assessing milk culture and production records, as well as quarantining the animals before allowing them the ability to infect your entire herd, can help to minimize instances of introducing a new infection to your herd.

4. Teat end health is critical when it comes to avoiding instances of infection in your herd. Milking equipment should be serviced routinely, as equipment not performing properly can cause teat end problems. Using a five- point scoring system can help to analyze the condition of teat ends, as well as ensure that the bacteria-blocking keratin plug is able to fulfill its responsibilities. Teat ends should maintain a smooth structure, avoiding any lesions or fraying, as these rough surfaces can more easily allow bacteria to enter the gland.

5. Trace mineral nutrition through selenium, copper, and zinc supplementation in diets is important for optimizing the health of dairy cows. Trace minerals and organic selenium offer a protected natural form of mineral supplementation that enhances mineral status to improve udder health and reduce somatic cell counts. Nutrition and the use of organic trace minerals can also play a key role in milk quality, and can play a huge part in managing infections before they even occur.

To learn more about managing milk quality, please find us at or call us at 859-887-5178.

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