Avoid the Hidden Costs of Antibiotic Treatments

Published on: 18:00PM Feb 10, 2013

If your first instinct is to consider the cost of each product, make sure you don’t stop there. Consider these wellness costs to evaluate that aren’t written on the bottle.

kirkpatrick m 225x300By Mark Kirkpatrick, Dairy Technical Services, Zoetis

If you find a case of metritis, what treatment do you reach for? A case of metritis can cost between $304 and $354 in losses of production and performance1, so you need a cost-effective treatment — something you can count on.

If your first instinct is to consider the cost of each product, make sure you don’t stop there. The product that costs less off the shelf could come with hidden costs and risks, especially if you use that treatment in an extra-label fashion. Here are some dairy wellness costs to evaluate that aren’t written on the bottle.

Hidden cost 1: Less chance of curing the disease
Understanding the disease process itself will help you identify which treatment is most effective. For example, metritis has a bacterial species progression that makes it difficult to treat. Typically, a case of metritis begins when an Escherichia coli (E. coli) infection develops in the uterus and paves the way for subsequent infections from other bacteria. An antibiotic such as penicillin does not have the range to attack an E. coli infection and going off-label won’t help. Treating metritis with penicillin may not fully address the cause of the metritis and require additional treatments.

Hidden cost 2: Protocols requiring more treatments
Treatment protocols are designed to consider length of therapy as well as both route and amount of a therapeutic agent to be delivered to address the disease condition. Depending on the drug you choose, protocols will vary in order to effectively address the condition. Protocols must be completed in both dose and duration to minimize the chance of a relapse and treatment failure.

Hidden cost 3: Greater risk of a drug residue
Some treatments aren’t necessarily dairy-friendly, especially if you want to use the drug in an extra-label fashion. Work with your veterinarian to review treatments options and updated withdrawal times if you both decide an extra-label treatment is necessary. Treatments requiring a milk withdrawal must be followed to avoid violative drug residues. If your raw milk tests positive for an antibiotic, you could be charged to cover the cost of the tanker plus additional fines from food safety officials. Treatments that come with zero milk discard remove the potentially hefty hidden cost of a residue violation.

Hidden cost 4: Reduced performance after a pen move
Treatments that require a milk withdrawal also means a cow must be moved to a pen with other treated cattle. Every time a cow is moved to a different pen, she needs to familiarize herself with her new surroundings and establish her social rank in the new group. Studies have shown that it can take two to five days for a group of cows to become socially stable after any pen move.2 Even when moving back to the original pen, social stress causes cows to spend less time eating and lying down. When milk production declines, the hidden costs of the treatment add up.

Hidden cost 5: Additional disease exposure with a pen move
Pen moves also can be costly if a cow contracts another illness. When a cow is already ill, her immune system is compromised and the risk of contracting another disease is high. For example, cows in hospital pens are 11 times more likely to contract Salmonella from shedding carriers in the pen.3 A new disease could require additional treatments, different medicines and more money spent.

Avoid hidden costs, extra-label therapy, drug residues and ineffective therapeutic outcomes by visiting with your veterinarian to discuss treatment options and protocols. Your veterinarian can help you determine which treatment is best suited for your operation and develop a treatment and record-keeping protocol to avoid these serious risks. If you have questions about drug residues and steps you can take to avoid them, visit www.AvoidResidues.com.

1 Metritis: Modified from Overton M, Fetrow J. Economics of Postpartum Uterine Health, in Proceedings. Dairy Cattle Reproduction Council Convention, 2008:39-44.
2 Boe KE, Faerevik G. Grouping and social preferences in calves, heifers and cows. Appl Anim.Behav Sci 2003.;80(3):175-190.
3 Cobbold RN, Rice DH, Davis MA, Besser TE, Hancock DD. Long-term persistence of multi-drug-resistant Salmonella enterica serovar Newport in two dairy herds. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2006;228(4):585-591.