Research and innovations accumulated over decades have advanced the dairy industry with better quality milk and a generally satisfactory sanitary situation as results. However, the treatment of intramammary infections has stayed in the background, with the traditional option of undiscriminating treatment. Recently, the European 2019/6 regulation on pharmaceutical products, particularly antibiotics, has thrown a severe challenge in the face of veterinarians and dairy producers.
For the time being, the lawmaker does not blame veterinarians yet expects one thing: that the veterinarian does his/her job. And the job of the veterinarian is first to understand and explain the dynamics of intramammary infections. It is not to constantly replenish the farmers with treatments they seem to be satisfied with. Of course, antibiotics had to play a role in mastitis control, and they did. But they should have remained a tool under supervision. However, veterinarians have generally left this tool to dairy producers, carefully avoiding taking responsibility for possible failures.
Fortunately, mastitis is not a mysterious disease, and the tools for analyzing the dynamics of intramammary infections are available in practically all dairy farms. Veterinarians, however, have stayed away from them, but this wait-and-see position is no longer tenable. Although a harmonization of interpretation of results is desirable, it is not essential. What is critical is that consistent work on treatment strategies is put in place now, combined with a regular veterinary presence and constant monitoring of the udder health situation.
The new European regulation opens up an opportunity hitherto blocked by old habits. This opportunity is that of diagnosis and decisions-taking based on science and evidence. Of course, this opportunity goes hand in hand with greater responsibility, yet a clearer and more objective responsibility. It is possible to ground the treatment of intramammary infections on solid precepts. Their results are measurable. It is now up to the veterinary professionals to grasp them and put them into action.
Luc Durel is currently working at Virbac as Global Technical Manager for the ruminant segment. He graduated in 1989 with a Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine from the National Veterinary School of Nantes (France). He has 18 years of experience as a practicing vet in the North-West of France and as a veterinary advisor in a large cattle breeding association. Member of organizations such as the Société Nationale des Groupements Techniques Vétérinaires (SNGTV, France) and the National Mastitis Council (NMC, USA), he authored several publications on cow's mastitis diagnostics and control and on milk quality management.
Text and picture: Luc Durel