Last year a group of Wiltshire dairy farmers took part in a field lab to reduce their antibiotic use by 'typing' the pathogens causing mastitis infections in their herds.
The results are now in and look promising...
By only treating the cases which were likely to respond, the trial farms saw a 24% reduction in antibiotics. The results also showed that milk from the untreated cows could be returned to the bulk tank in just 4 days, an average 8.6 days less than those which were treated - saving time and money.
So far, research found that gram positive bacteria, like staphylococci and streptococci, usually require early and effective antimicrobial intervention but many researchers agree that this is not the case for E coli and coliform mastitis (so-called gram negative bacteria), which have a high spontaneous cure rate.
The farm kit ‘VetorapidTM (Vetoquinol)’, checks individual cases of mastitis on-farm, rapidly identifying the causative pathogens and enabling a decision to treat or not to be made by the farmer. So instead of needing to send the results away for lab analysis, the kit identifies the strain of mastitis in each case, giving a result in just 24 hours.
A sample of 78 mastitis cases were tested using the testing kits of which 19 results indicated the type of bacteria would not respond to antibiotics. These 19 cases were left untreated and of these 17 were cured without further treatment within 4-5 days as also seen in the treated cows.
This small sample over eight farms reduced antibiotic use by 24% over the trial, and milk wastage was reduced as milk from untreated cows was useable after just 4 days compared to 13 for treated cows. On these eight farms this amounts to an estimated saving of 9 days milk at a total of £63 per cow, meaning even once the cost of testing the cow is deducted the farmer makes a saving of £10.50 for every mastitis case cured without antibiotics compared to an average loss of £250 to treat with antibiotics. However reoccurrence rates were higher in untreated cows which is a factor to monitor in further studies.
The group was coordinated by Wiltshire-based Vet Peter Plate of Endell Veterinary Group.
Peter said: “There has been no breakthrough in reducing antibiotic usage in treatment of clinical mastitis in the UK, so far. If mastitis is not treated effectively at an early stage, there is a danger that bacteriological cure-rates drop significantly, leaving many cows with a high cell count and possible high risk of clinical recurrence.
“However, through the field lab we got the impression that the gram negative cases left untreated cured naturally in a similar time period, to those which were treated. It appears there were no adverse effects following a course of no treatment – which suggests that antibiotics may not always be needed in every case of mastitis. The potential for reduction varied widely between farms. More research with larger number of cases is needed to further evaluate this approach.”
Group coordinator, Peter Plate with Liz Bowles who helped facilitate the group.
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