The effect of antibiotic versus no treatment at dry-off on udder health and milk yield in subsequent lactation: A retrospective analysis of Austrian health recording data from dairy herds
Bovine mastitis is the most commonly diagnosed disease of dairy cows worldwide and causes extensive economic losses to milk producers. Intramammary infection status before dry-off plays a decisive role with respect to udder health and milk yield in the subsequent lactation.
The aim of this study was to compare the effect of antibiotic dry cow therapy (DCT) versus no treatment at dry-off on milk yield, somatic cell count (SCC), inflammation of the mammary gland (IMG), and the incidence of clinical mastitis in the subsequent lactation.
Dairy herd data from 251 Austrian dairy farms were recorded over an observation period of 12 mo and subsequently analyzed. The data set included 5,018 dairy cows: 2,078 were treated with antibiotics (abDCT group) and 2,940 were not treated (noDCT group) at dry-off. The abDCT group was subdivided, based on the antimicrobial active substances used for drying off, into 4 different groups (penicillins, cloxacillin, cephalosporins and rifaximin). Based on bacteriological culture results, infections were grouped into those caused by major, minor, and other pathogens.
Additionally, the IMG was defined via SCC from milk recording data using a cutoff of 200,000 cells/mL before drying off and after calving. The incidence of clinical mastitis cases within 30 and 90 d in milk was calculated using veterinary diagnosis data. To investigate the effect of different dry cow therapies on the following parameters: milk yield, SCC, and diagnosed clinical mastitis cases, different linear mixed models were constructed.
Overall, the abDCT group was determined to have a significantly higher milk yield over 305 d in milk in the subsequent lactation (increase of 6.18%), compared with the noDCT group (increase of 4.29%). Both groups (abDCT and noDCT) demonstrated a decrease in the first SCC after calving compared with the SCC before dry-off, although the treated cows had a significantly higher reduction. Regarding the different antibiotic groups, with exception of the rifaximin treated cows, all antibiotic groups showed a significant difference from not treated cows with respect to SCC. Additionally, we were able to demonstrate that cows with IMG before dry-off had a 2.073 times higher chance of an increased SCC (>200,000 cells/mL) after calving. With respect to the veterinary diagnosis data, neither the IMG before drying off nor the type of DCT had a significant influence on the probability of developing clinical mastitis within 30 or 90 d in milk. Only a small number of treatments was accompanied with a bacteriological examination before drying off.
However, the existing data in this study indicates that the intramammary infection status before dry-off in combination with different dry cow treatments influences udder health and milk yield after calving.
Nevertheless, further studies with larger data sets of bacteriological examinations are necessary to enable a more in-depth investigation into the effects of different antibiotic substances used for DCT.
M. Sigmund, C. Egger-Danner, C.L. Firth, W. Obritzhauser, F.F. Roch, B. Conrady, T. Wittek, The effect of antibiotic versus no treatment at dry-off on udder health and milk yield in subsequent lactation: A retrospective analysis of Austrian health recording data from dairy herds, Journal of Dairy Science 106(1) (2023)