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Selective dry cow therapy

Agriculture

Selective dry cow therapy

The use of antimicrobials and particularly antibiotics in farm animals is increasingly being highlighted in the media, together with concerns about possible transfer of antibiotic resistance from farm animals to people.  The UK government has set a target for antibiotic use of a maximum 50 mg/PCU (population correction unit), across all farm species by 2018.  RUMA (Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture Alliance) has recently stated that the target for dairy cows should be 21mg/PCU by 2020.  Current use in dairy cows in the UK is estimated to be ~26.2mg/PCU.

Selective dry cow therapy is one possible strategy to reduce antibiotic use in dairy cows, albeit injectable antibiotics account for the largest quantity of antibiotics administered on most dairy farms. (Lactating and dry cow tubes contain small amounts of antibiotic).  Antibiotics are normally only administered when an animal is ‘sick’, but this is not the case with dry cow tubes, where blanket treatment has been the norm for many years.  Reducing dry cow antibiotic use through ‘selective dry cow therapy’ is a relatively easy and justifiable strategy to “use as much antibiotic as necessary, but as little as possible”.   Click on the pdf’s below for further information on ‘Selective Dry Cow Therapy’ and the results in the CAFRE Dairy Herd.

This strategy has being implemented in the CAFRE Dairy Herd since 2016.  Selection criteria for dry cow tubes were agreed in conjunction with the farm veterinary practitioner.  Individual cow milk recording information and clinical mastitis records were used in the decision making process.  The initial criteria set for cows to receive antibiotic dry cow therapy, along with internal teat sealants were: somatic cell counts below 150 for the last 3 milk recordings before drying off and no cases of clinical mastitis during the lactation.  Applying these criteria reduced dry cow therapy by 50% in cows that were available for the selection process.  After reviewing results from the first season, the selection criteria has been changed, in conjunction with and agreement from the farm veterinary practitioner.  Cows will only receive dry cow antibiotics if somatic cell counts are above 200 in any of the last 3 milk recordings and/or the cow has had a case of clinical mastitis during the same period.   Currently less than 30% of cows are receiving dry cow antibiotics, but all cows are receiving internal teat sealants.

Watch the video for further information on selective dry cow therapy.