Four Tips for Treating Mastitis

Linda Tikofsky, senior associate director of dairy professional veterinary services with Boehringer Ingelheim, offers recommendations for using cultures to identify and treat mastitis based on the pathogen.

1. Take a sample before the cow is treated 

Use an on-farm culture system or send it to your veterinarian. “We know with milk and moderate mastitis we can wait 24 hours for results before starting treatment,” Tikofsky says. “If you don’t have access to timely culture and treat all mastitis, if she doesn’t get better, at least now you have a sample to culture to find the culprit before you try to treat her again.” On most dairies clinical mastitis cases will be found at milking.

2. Culture the sample

It’s at this time that a culture should be taken and either processed in the on-farm lab or sent to an off-farm facility.

3. Treat according to results

Tikofsky says results will usually break down as follows:

  • One third of samples will have no growth and the cow doesn’t require treatment.
  • One third will be positive for gram-negative bacteria such as E. coli or Klebsiella. “Most milk and moderate E. coli infections will resolve on their own,” Tikofsky says. “There is no effective labeled intra-mammary treatment for Klebsiella.”
  • The remaining third will be gram-positive bacteria. Tikofsky recommends using the right narrow spectrum antibiotics to treat the specific challenge.

4. Use a narrow spectrum antibiotic

If you choose blanket therapy for mastitis treatment, Tikofsky recommends short duration treatment that quickly moves cows from treatment to putting milk in the tank. “Use a narrow spectrum antibiotic that targets gram-positive bacteria,” she says. “Using antibiotics judiciously is important, so avoid treatment with medically important antibiotics in human medicine. Make sure to follow the label dose and adhere to the specific product withhold guidelines.”

Note: This story appeared in the November issue of Dairy Herd Management.

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