Producers are quick to treat mastitis cases, often defaulting to the same treatment for all. That may not be the best economic decision.
By Dr. Mark van der List, BVSc, MPVM
Few health issues have as much strain on a dairy’s bottom line as mastitis. Dairy producers are quick to treat mastitis cases, oftentimes defaulting to the same treatment for all. However, treating all instances of mastitis the same may not be the best economic decision.
I recommend dairy producers evaluate each individual case of mastitis before deciding which treatment to use. Not only is each mastitis case different, cows will respond differently to treatment. The decision on whether to treat, how to treat and how long to treat depends on the mastitis pathogen, the cow and the mastitis treatment.
If a cow has a chronic history of mastitis or high somatic cell count (SCC), then she may not respond to treatment. Also certain organisms do not respond to treatment such as yeasts, algae and Mycoplasma spp.
Knowing the organism type before treatment begins can also be very economical. This can be achieved from culture results, but they need to have a fast turnaround and may need to be done on the farm.
Treating all cows, and for extended times, is rarely economically justified. Cows with a culture result of no growth, or a Gram-negative pathogen, rarely benefit from intramammary treatment.
Consider a herd of cows with approximately one-third of its mastitis cases being from Gram-positive pathogens, one-third of the cases having Gram-negative pathogens and one-third with no growth on culture. Only the cows with a Gram-positive pathogen are likely to show an economic return to intramammary treatment. So with blanket treatment, two-thirds of the cows are unnecessarily treated. This waste is amplified if all cows are routinely treated for extended periods (greater than two or three treatments).
It is important to work with your herd veterinarian to determine the best approach to treating mastitis. With continuing economic pressures on dairy farmers, you need to evaluate every management practice to make sure it is cost-effective for your operation.
Mark van der List is a Professional Services Veterinarian with Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, Inc.
©2012 Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, Inc.