Katie Scotter BA VetMB MRCVS & Lorna Pillar BVM BVS MRCVS, Molecare Farm Vets
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. This however, is also an example of where antibiotics are being over used, and in an age where we are trying to drive down antibiotic usage, this needs to change.
Alongside reducing overall cases of mastitis, a reduction in the use of antibiotics can also be achieved by knowing which type of pathogen causing the infection, and selecting a therapy specific to that pathogen, which is where research is now lending itself to new diagnostic and treatment programmes.
In recent years there have been advances in this field including the use of on farm labs to identify the pathogens causing mastitis. 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 which you can assess the results. If both tubes change to be 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 merit 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 usage but 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.
Currently we have one farm that is already using MastDecide, and since setting up this new system they have seen >50% reduction in antibiotic use when treating clinical mastitis cases without affecting cure rates. For more information on how this could work for your farm, contact Molecare Farm Vets.
In addition to the MastDecide diagnostic system, we have seen The Dairyco Mastitis Control Plan launch which is focused on training vets to identify the welfare and financial impact of this disease at an individual farm level, which is proving to be a helpful tool in managing this disease.
The control plan works by reviewing the individual mastitis profile of each farm, and identifying the large number of factors that are specific for each case. The focus is then on identifying the predominant mastitis pattern on a farm using a structured and evidence-based approach, with the aim to control and prevent mastitis.
A vet who has is trained on The Dairyco Mastitis Control Plan will be able to look at farm specific information including:
• Clinical mastitis records
• Milk recording
• On farm observations
They then also have access to a variety of tools such as the pattern analysis tool, cost benefit calculator, high cell count decision support, antimicrobial use calculator and data conversion programs, as well as support and advice from The Dairyco Mastitis Consultants. This enables your vet to assess your mastitis situation, advise on changes to improve levels and continue to monitor progress on farm in a controlled and measured way.
This approach to mastitis, along with the MastDecide test kits allows farmers and vets to work closely together to identify the cause and source of mastitis, and work together to prevent cases occurring.
The aims of this strategy are to not only have less mastitis on farm, but also to aid the reduction of antibiotics, and we are seeing that when the correct control plans are in place it can lead to improvements in farm productivity and a decrease in the environmental impact of our milk production.
For more information on MastDecide or to speak to Lorna regarding The Dairyco Mastitis Control Plan, please call the practice on 01392 872934.