Livestock News

Mastitis: Consider a pathogen-based approach


It is estimated that mastitis costs the U.S. dairy industry $2 billion each year.

However, most dairy producers might not realize only 15 percent of cases need to be treated immediately and systematically. Eighty-five percent of cases are actually mild or moderate, and delaying treatment 24 to 36 hours won’t change the outcome.

“Most of the time we don’t have to react so dramatically to clinical mastitis,” said Dr. Daryl Nydam, Associate Professor of Dairy Health and Production and Director of Quality Milk Production Services, Cornell University.

Nydam shared his approach to treating mastitis at the Central Plains Dairy Expo in Sioux Falls, South Dakota Thursday during his presentation, “Applying Prudent Antimicrobial Use to Udder Health,” sponsored by Boehringer Ingelheim.

According to Nydam, 60 percent of antimicrobial use in dairy is for mastitis, however there are only seven FDA approved tubes for inflammatory use. The professor advises choosing a tube based on cost, withhold time, and frequency of administration.

And when it comes to clinical mastitis, Nydam suggests making pathogen-based treatment decisions to make more money without compromising animal health.

Why? Because often, there are no bugs. Mastitis detection may be based on results of an immune response and not the act of infection. The clinical signs may show inflammation, not infection. Also, at least 20 percent of milk samples will be culture negative if they are properly collected.

A New York dairy producer recently approached Cornell researchers with the question, “Can I selectively use a less expensive antibiotic with a short label duration of treatment instead of using a more expensive antibiotic on all clinical mastitis cases for a typical duration of five days?”

The researchers decided to put their pathogen-based approach to the test.

The 3,500 New York herd had a total of 725 cases of clinical mastitis: 114 cows were not enrolled due to severity, and an additional 122 cases did not meet inclusion criteria. The remaining cows were divided into two groups: 246 to receive the pathogen-based treatment and 243 to receive the blanket treatment.

The researchers found:

  • The length of clinical mastitis did not significantly change between the two groups (4.5 PB, 4.8 BT). Nydam said often after two or three days a producer will get anxious and want to switch tubes, but it’s important to wait five days and then assess.
  • The difference in post-event milk production between groups was not statistically significant (77.8 lbs. PB, 76.3 lbs BT).
  • Odds of survival 30-day post enrollment was similar between groups.
  • The one significant difference found was days the cows were out of the tank — pathogen-based cows experienced, on average three more days of saleable milk than the blanket therapy.

Nydam noted a majority (68.5%) of moderate and mild clinical cases would not have been treated if all cows on this trial were enrolled in a pathogen-based protocol.

The use of pathogen based therapy to guide the treatment of clinical mastitis resulted in reduced treatment costs, increased volume of saleable milk, and allowed for a 67 percent reduction in IMM antimicrobial use with no impact on therapeutic success resulting in an increase in cash flow of over $30,000 per 1,000 cows.

“We can’t have a blanket approach for all dairies because they each have a unique ecosystem,” Nydam said.


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