Katie Scotter BA VetMB MRCVS
With the recent shortages of antibiotic lactating cow tubes set to affect the dairy industry for several months, it is a good opportunity to look at other ways of approaching mastitis treatment. Currently we use tubes that contain multiple antibiotics to cover a wide range of bacteria. This is necessary where you do not know the pathogen causing the mastitis, and so you cannot use a targeted therapy. But this is also a large use of antibiotics which aren’t necessary, and in an age where we are trying to drive down antibiotic use, this needs to change. Alongside reducing overall cases of mastitis, a reduction in use can also be achieved by knowing which type of pathogen is causing the infection, and selecting a therapy specific to that pathogen.
In recent years there has been advances in this field including the use of on farm labs to identify the specific pathogen in each case. Mastdecide is an on farm mini lab system that identifies the type of bacteria present in mastitis milk samples. This information can be used to inform treatment decisions on farm and in real time. All that you need is an egg incubator and a Mastdecide test kit.
The process is simple and the kit is easy to use. On finding a case of mild/moderate mastitis, you need to sample the affected quarter. Whilst waiting for the result the cow should receive a zero milk withdrawal anti-inflammatory, but no antibiotic tubes. Each test kit has two test tubes that are pink in colour. Milk is added and incubated for 12 hours. After 12 hours you can assess the results. If both tubes change to colourless then antibiotic therapy is indicated and should be started at the next milking. This reflects gram positive bacteria present, e.g. Staph aureus or Strep uberis which require antibiotic treatment (tubes and/or injectable). If one test tube stays pink, or both tubes stay pink this indicates a different type of bacterial infection that does not require antibiotics. At the next milking that cow should receive only anti-inflammatory injections and no antibiotic tubes and she will clear the infection with her own immune system in a few days.
This system not only reduces antibiotic use but it also reduces time out of the tank due to withdrawal periods. Reduced cost of therapy and reduced loss of milk in the tank easily justifies the cost of the test itself.
We have already put the system on one of our dairies with more clients keen to follow suit. If you would be interested in hearing more about this novel system please get in touch with your herd vet or contact Katie at the practice on 01392 876622