Animal Health

 Identify, treat and prevent some of the more common diseases of dairy cattle.

Constant and careful monitoring

Dairy farmers want to do what is best for their cows and ensure that, regardless of the situation, they are proud of the way they treat their animals. Making decisions that relate to cow health and welfare can sometimes be difficult.

Constant and careful monitoring of the herd is vital to identifying and treating problems early. In fact, quick action in response to a sick or injured cow is the most important aspect of maintaining optimal animal welfare. This can become less of a priority for farmers when they are busy, or times are tough.

Remember, if a cow is showing signs of pain, is injured or sick, act decisively. These can be hard decisions to make, but action is required to ensure a cow is not suffering unnecessarily or for any prolonged period.

Antimicrobial stewardship

Antibiotics are a critically important tool used by dairy farmers to ensure the health and welfare of animals on farm. Overall, the Australian dairy industry has a very low use of antibiotics compared to other countries. However, overuse or incorrect use can lead to antibiotic resistance. This is when infections caused by bacteria develop and are resistant to the effects of antibiotics. By using antibiotics sparingly and correctly, we can minimise the risk of antibiotic resistance and protect our international reputation.

The industry is committed to using antibiotics responsibly to protect the health and welfare of our animals. This can be summarised by using ‘as little as possible’ or ‘as much as necessary’.

Specific antibiotic stewardship targets for the Australian dairy industry state that:

  • All dairy farmers access antibiotics from a registered vet.
  • All dairy farmers use antibiotics responsibly under veterinary direction.
  • Antibiotics of high importance to human Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) in Australia are only used to treat dairy livestock in exceptional circumstances where there are no alternatives.

Responsible stewardship of antibiotics is best achieved by:

  • Developing a herd health management plan with your vet.
  • Using selective or part-herd dry cow therapy.
  • Ensuring your vet is familiar with the Australian Government’s Antibiotics Importance Ratings and Summary of Antibacterial Uses in Human and Animal Health in Australia.

Reviewing the use of antibiotics rated of high importance for human health. In Australia, there are two antibiotics rated of high importance for human health that are registered for use in dairy cattle. They are:

  • Ceftiofur (e.g., Excenel®, Exceed® and Accent®).
  • Virginiamycin (e.g., Eskalin®).

If you are using either of these antibiotics on your farm it is important to make time with your dairy cattle veterinarian to review its use.

Selective dry cow therapy

To reduce antibiotic use, many herds are moving away from blanket or whole-herd dry cow therapy. Selective or part-herd dry cow therapy is when only cows with a history of an elevated Individual Cow Cell Count (ICCC), or clinical mastitis, receive antibiotic dry cow therapy at dry off. For most herds, it is recommended to continue using an internal teat sealant in cows that do not receive antibiotic dry cow therapy. Selective or part-herd dry cow therapy may not be appropriate for all herds.

Farms that are well-placed to implement selective or part-herd dry cow antibiotic already have:

  • A low bulk milk cell count (BMCC) year-round.
  • At least one herd test within 80 days of dry-off.
  • Good/complete clinical mastitis records.
  • Low calving time mastitis (less than 5 per cent of cows with clinical mastitis in the first month after calving).
  • Good dry cow and calving time management.
  • No history of cows getting mastitis after drying off or in the dry period.
  • A good working relationship with a Countdown Trained Adviser and a proactive approach to staff training on dry cow treatment.
  • No history of Streptococcus agalactiae (Strep. ag) mastitis.

A Selective Dry Cow tool is available on DataGene’s HerdPlatform.

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