UK - Dry cow therapy should be tailored to individual animals, not at herd level, new industry guidelines on antibiotic usage have advised.
Independent animal health body RUMA (Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture Alliance) has prescribed that this approach is backed up with appropriate surveillance and bacteriology.
A range of measures to inform decisions on treatment and prevention of bacterial udder infections in order to curb antibiotic resistance has been released for dairy farmers and vets.
Best practice for teat sealants, teat dips, herd management and use of a mastitis vaccine is offered, with a strong theme of good communication channels between farmers and vet at all times.
Whether using antibiotic drugs or alternative methods, RUMA advised aseptic techniques are 'essential'.
Furthermore, farmers are told to treat the cow as a whole and not to think in terms of individual udder quarters.
John Fitzgerald, RUMA secretary general, told TheDairySite that the general message was about making informed decisions onfarm.
He said: “The message for farmers is to make sure you work with your vet and record for cell count and monitor animals closely.
“You need to take a decision on each individual animal based on the animal’s cell count and herd history.”
Advice is also given on drug selection, herd health, dry cow period length and hygiene at drying-off.
The report stressed the benefit of using somatic cell counts as an indicator of intramammary infection. This is widely practiced in the industry and RUMA recommends farmers take at least three cell counts per lactation.
The report hones in on a period when cows are most at risk from bacteria as the udder restores between lactations.
The advice is aimed at optimising antibiotic use as part of RUMA’s ‘as little as possible, as much as necessary’ approach to promote sustainable use of antimicrobials in livestock production.
One drug - cefuinome, a fourth generation cephalosporin – was marked out as being the only dry cow product on the critically important list of antimicrobials.
Using Somatic Cell Count
Using 200,000 somatic cells per millilitre at cow level is a global standard in determining bacterial infection, the report said.
The guidelines added: “Using this cell count as a guide along with examination of the udder and teats for any abnormal changes should provide an indicator to the infection status of the udder.”
Cell count should inform whether teat sealants are to be used, RUMA added. “It is recommended to use more than one somatic cell count to obtain a reliable result on intra mammary infection status - at least three and preferably for the whole lactation.
“Clinical mastitis history is also a good indicator of risk of intra mammary infection.”
Dry Period Length
Mammary management should be based on dry period length as antibiotics with short activity length can open the door for clinical incidence in the next lactation from more infections, said the guidelines.
Therefore, the combination of teat sealants and antibiotics at dry off is described as ‘advisable’ to provide protection outside the drug’s period.
Farmers are reminded that no UK teat sealant claims antimicrobial activity and should be used in low somatic cell infected quarters when used alone.
RUMA added: “Internal teat sealants have been used in cows with quarters infected at drying off with no adverse effects but cure rates are low and more likely attributable to self-cure rather than therapeutic activity of the internal teat sealant.”
Making the Call
Veterinary consultation is prioritised in the guidelines, as is the use of records. The publications state that bulk milk counts, screening for bacteria, individual SCC counts and knowledge of cow history are details that should be considered before choosing a dry cow treatment course.
Outlining a model farmer/vet relationship, RUMA said clear information should be given regarding medication, dosage and administration to the vet and added: “The prescribing veterinary surgeon must be made aware of other medicines being administered to the animal(s) concerned so that adverse reactions can be avoided.”
The British Cattle Veterinary Association (BCVA), which voiced support for the guidelines, highlighted the role communication has to play in appropriate implementation of both antimicrobial and alternative techniques.
Farms are told to routinely screen for bacteria, including Streptococcus agalactiae.
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