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Choose the Right Mastitis Treatment

BI PreventionWorks 10/22/2012 @ 2:57pm

Individual cow care is an important component to determining treatment options.


Clinical cases of mastitis are a drain on the bottom line in dairy operations. But dairy producers shouldn’t be quick to treat clinical mastitis the same way every time without doing some research on both the health history of the cow and the organism causing the mastitis.  


Treating all cases of mastitis with tubes is like throwing money away because some mastitis cases won’t respond well to treatment. Dr. Mark van der List, a Professional Services Veterinarian with Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, Inc., encourages dairy producers to look at the history of the cow before beginning treatment.


“Individual care of the animal is very important,” says Dr. van der List. “Animals will respond to treatment differently. If you have a chronically infected cow that has flared up with a clinical case of mastitis, treatment is unlikely to be successful.” 


On-farm culturing can give you an idea if the cow will respond to treatment. Dr. van der List recommends using tubes to treat mastitis caused by Gram-positive bacteria, as long as the cow does not have a chronic history of high somatic cell counts or repeated cases of clinical mastitis.


“Infections like yeasts, mycoplasmas and chronic Staph aureus are not going to respond well to tubes, so there is no need to treat those cases with tubes,” Dr. van der List adds. He also recommends against treating Gram-negative infections with tubes, citing that most studies have shown no benefit to treating those cases.


Timing and length of treatment


After you diagnose a case of clinical mastitis caused by Gram-positive bacteria, the next step is choosing the right tube. A current industry trend recommends treatment of five days or longer. However, there is little research that supports this theory. 


Dr. van der List reminds producers that extended therapy (greater than 2 days) is beneficial against certain mastitis pathogens. However, extended therapy is more costly than shorter treatments because of treatment costs and time out of tank (saleable milk), but it may be warranted if higher cure rates are achieved.


As an example of extended therapy, Dr. van der List says, “if one-third of the cases [of mastitis] are gram positive, one-third are no growth and one-third are gram negative, then it is likely that only the third that are gram positive will show any benefit to treatment. To use blanket extended therapy on all cows when you only are going to benefit one-third of the cows will often not pencil-out.”


 “A lot of dairymen feel the need to treat until the milk looks normal,” Dr. van der List says. “They are probably over-treating because the inflammation will last longer than the actual infection.” 


Instead, he recommends doing a milk culture for every case, and developing a treatment plan accordingly. “There are some organisms you might want to treat a little longer,” he continues. “But, the big mistake is to use prolonged therapy as your standard treatment. As many as two-thirds of the cases will not benefit from that antibiotic tube, and the rest can usually be taken care of with a short-term treatment product.” 

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