November 25, 2019

Reducing Antibiotic Use on Your Dairy

Reducing antibiotic use is better for the cow, the producer and the consumer. To be more judicious with antibiotic use, start by adjusting treatment protocols for mastitis, an infection responsible for the greatest antibiotic use on dairies.1

“Our strategies for preventing mastitis and being selective about which animals get treated with antibiotics balance judicious use of antibiotics with the need to provide good animal care and improve animal productivity,” said Heidi Fischer, winner of the 2019 Producers for Progress Recognition Program.*

In addition to working closely with your veterinarian, the following steps can help your operation make strides toward more judicious antibiotic use:

Practice prevention

Maintaining clean free stalls and following appropriate milking procedures can help minimize bacterial contamination. A mastitis vaccine may also be appropriate. “Whole-herd vaccination prior to an at-risk time period can help prevent mastitis or reduce the severity of the disease,” noted Linda Tikofsky, DVM, senior associate director of dairy professional veterinary services, Boehringer Ingelheim.

On-farm culturing

For mild or moderate mastitis cases, Dr. Tikofsky recommends producers take a milk sample, culture it and wait 24 hours for results before treating. This can be done without a negative effect on cure rate or animal welfare. However, for severe mastitis cases, treat cows right away using an appropriate treatment protocol.

“In 30 to 40 percent of the cultured samples, there are no bacteria present, since the cow has eliminated the infection herself, so producers are only seeing inflammation,” she explained.2,3,4 “Just wait until the inflammation subsides, then put the cow’s milk back in the tank when it returns to normal.”

Selective dry cow therapy

A selective dry cow therapy (SDCT) program, in which antibiotics are only used to treat cows that have been identified as having previous or current intramammary infections, provides producers with an opportunity to reduce antibiotic use on their operation. In fact, research has shown that SDCT has reduced producers’ antibiotic use by two-thirds.5

* If you are interested in learning more about the Producers for Progress recognition program, visit

©2019 Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health USA Inc., Duluth, GA. All Rights Reserved. US-BOV-0197-2019

1 Pol M, Ruegg PL. Treatment practices and quantification of antimicrobial drug usage in conventional and organic dairy farms in Wisconsin. J Dairy Sci 2007;90(1):249–261.
2 Hoe FGH, Ruegg PL. Relationship between antimicrobial susceptibility of clinical mastitis pathogens and treatment outcome in cows. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2005;227(9):1461–1468.
3 Schukken YH, Zurakowski MJ, Rauch BJ, et al. Non-inferiority trial comparing a first-generation cephalosporin with a third-generation cephalosporin in the treatment of non-severe clinical mastitis in dairy cows. J Dairy Sci 2013;96(10):6763–6774.
4 Vasquez AK, Nydam DV, Capel MB, et al. Randomized non-inferiority trial comparing two commercial intramammary antibiotics for the treatment of non-severe clinical mastitis in dairy cows. J Dairy Sci 2016;99(10):8267–8281.
5 Vasquez AK, Nydam DV, Foditsch C, Wieland M. Use of a culture-independent, on-farm algorithm to guide the use of selective dry-cow antibiotic therapy. J Dairy Sci 2018;101(6):5345–5361.