Prudent use of antibiotics in animals helps minimise the risk of bacteria developing resistance. There’s also mounting evidence that antibiotic resistance is building in humans, which can be partly attributed to the use of antibiotics in animals.
That’s why it’s important for farmers and animal health professionals to work together to ensure antibiotics are not over-used on-farm. Early identification and treatment of clinical cows can assist with this.
Developing a herd health management plan with your vet, alongside your annual RVM (Restricted Veterinary Medicines) review, will help prevent some of the on-farm diseases and health conditions in the first place, which will reduce the need for treatment. It will also minimise the risk of antibiotic resistance in your herd and any flow-on effects into human communities.
Give it the green light
New Zealand Veterinary Association guidelines outline a ‘traffic light’ approach when using antibiotics (see diagram below). This system helps you and your vet agree on the treatments to reach for first, and identify those requiring more investigation before they can be administered. It’s an easy way to ensure the right cows are targeted with the right treatments, with the right doses and timing of doses, to support the cow to return to good health.
Compounds in the ‘green category’ are generally the first choice or line of treatment, with compounds in the ‘yellow’ category used as the second line of approach, or certain conditions where the organism is more susceptible to these products. Compounds in the ‘red’ category are used only as a last resort, or where there’s enough diagnostic evidence to indicate its use.
For most cases of mastitis, intramammary products will be used, as they deliver the smallest amount of antibiotic to the part of the cow where it’s most needed. But sometimes, injectable products may be preferred, such as treating multiple glands or where the cow is showing signs of systemic illness. Other situations may require the use of anti-inflammatories, to help make the cow more comfortable, and may lead to better outcomes in the long run.
Find, record and treat all clinicals
Rapidly finding and treating clinical mastitis cases in the calving period reduces the risk of affecting milk quality. It also reduces the likelihood of infection being passed on to other cows, and development of chronic, longer-lasting infections.
Look for heat, swelling or signs of pain in the udder, and/or changes in the milk (wateriness, clots, discolouration) that persist for more than three squirts of milk. Only treat these cows – this helps avoid wasting antibiotics on cases that may otherwise clear up on their own.
Get tips on rapidly finding and treating clinical cases in the calving period.
Find out more about antibiotic use on dairy farms and the 'traffic light approach. You can also download a free copy of the NZVA guidelines from this page.
Identifying and treating clinical cases of mastitis early will help reduce infection and milk quality issues. Talk to your vet about updating or developing a herd health management plan appropriate for your farm, and support use of the ‘traffic light’ approach. This will ensure there is a:
- clear understanding on your farm about how to prevent and treat different conditions
- focus on cow comfort and a rapid return to good health
- reduction in antibiotic misuse and waste.