Moving away from blanket dry cow therapy and supporting the adoption of selective dry cow therapy in Ireland – key messages from CellCheck.

The majority of antimicrobial use on dairy farms is for mastitis treatment and prevention. Dry cow antibiotic therapy (DCT) is the administration of long acting intramammary antibiotics at the time of dry off. This practice gained widespread implementation in the 1960’s as part of the ‘five-point plan’. Blanket dry cow therapy, which involves treatment of all quarters of all cows at dry-off, has been commonplace in Ireland for many years. However, the recent European Veterinary Medicines Regulation (2019/6) and the requirement to use antibiotics more prudently, means that preventive antibiotic usage in groups of animals, including dairy cows at the end of their lactation, is no longer acceptable. Only those animals with diagnostic evidence or a clinical diagnosis of infection at drying off should receive an antibiotic. This is known as selective DCT (SDCT). A key aim of the recent legislation is to protect human health, and to keep antimicrobials, – in particular antibiotics, working to treat disease. When antimicrobial resistance (AMR) develops and spreads, then antibiotics can no longer be relied upon to treat disease in people or animals. AMR is a serious global public health threat with potentially devastating consequences for us and our families.

Adopting a selective approach to dry cow treatment will require both a change in mindset and practice for many Irish farmers and their prescribing veterinary practitioners. To facilitate this change, CellCheck, the Irish national mastitis control programme, developed a Dry Cow Consult a number of years ago. The objective of this Dry Cow Consult was to enable farmers to engage with their trained nominated vet to develop farm-specific selective dry cow treatment (SDCT) plans, where appropriate.

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