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How to treat mastitis for a cure

Gary Neubauer Published on 28 December 2009

In the dairy industry, more often than not, we try to shorten the duration of mastitis treatment due to the humbling economics of milk “going down the drain.” A study from the University of Pennsylvania found that only 24 percent of dairy producers follow the veterinarian-prescribed protocol every single time. The temptation to stop treatment once a clinical cure is achieved is great.

Over time, this strategy could end up costing you more. Oftentimes the bacteria is not completely eliminated, even if the milk looks normal. Some pathogens, including Staphylococcus aureus, are particularly apt at coming back. And if a cow relapses, prolonged treatment costs would be incurred, the effectiveness of the antibiotics is reduced and there would be a greater risk of contamination for the rest of the herd. Duration is critical to truly achieve a bacteriological cure.

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Using extended-therapy products and treating for the entire duration will help ensure a complete bacteriological cure and lessen the chance of relapse. With extended-therapy mastitis protocols there is additional milk discard; however, the positive trade-offs are an increased cure rate, less chance of contamination, lower SCC and greater production.

Discuss with your veterinarian the cost of cure and consider the efficacy of the product, the daily cost of the antibiotic and frequency of administration. You will also want to include the cost of milk discard, relapse rate and residue risk. More often than not, the cost of treating for a bacteriological cure is less than the “savings” of stopping treatment.

You have to ask yourself: Are your cows getting the prescribed dose, at the prescribed time (i.e., once a day, twice a day, three times a day) and the full duration? For instance, research has shown that with extended therapy, we can reach a bacterial cure rate of 80 percent or greater when treating gram-positive infections like Streptococci.

When considering extended-therapy options, it’s best to determine what products have an extended-therapy label and are available for lactating dairy cows. Treatment effectiveness depends on degree of infection, length of time of the infection and proper administration. Effectiveness can be compromised if the antibiotic was not infused into the udder for enough days or the product did not stay in the udder long enough.

Treatment for a bacteriological cure – not just a clinical cure – will ultimately increase lifetime animal performance, lessen the chance for relapse and increase the efficiency of the antibiotics in use. Talk with your veterinarian to learn more about extended-therapy products for your herd. PD

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References omitted but are available upon request at

Gary Neubauer
Veterinarian
Pfizer Animal Health

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