A way to prevent mastitis in early lactation is to apply dry cow therapy through administering antibiotics. Giving a long-acting intramammary infusion at the end of lactation has two functions: firstly, it eliminates any current infections at the time of drying-off and, secondly, prevents new infections during the dry-period and early lactation (Cameron et al., 2014; Halasa et al., 2009). Until a couple of years ago, most cows were dried off using antibiotics. However, antibiotic use creates selective pressure on bacterial populations and contributes to the development of antimicrobial resistance (Landers et al., 2012).
Somatic cell count as indicator
Selective dry cow therapy can be done based on different indicators, e.g. on milk yield before dry off and somatic cell count (SCC). There are indications that the three to six weekly laboratory tests do not provide the most accurate information for deciding whether to apply antibiotics for dry cow therapy (selective dry cow therapy) because of the time delay between SCC measurement during milk recordings and the actual moment of drying off. It is known that the SCC increases at the end of lactation (KNMVD, 2013). This increase is likely caused by a lower milk production, resulting in a higher concentration of somatic cells (Green et al., 2006). In addition, cow health can change significantly just before dry off, which might affect the decision for the right treatment.
Cows with chronic (subclinical) mastitis often fluctuate in cell count (De Haas et al., 2004). Daily measurement of cell counts helps to identify cows with this condition (Dalen et al., 2019). The Milk Quality Control Cell Count (MQC-C) is a good tool for monitoring individual cow udder health, specifically because of its high measurement frequency (Deng et al., 2020). It appears that cows with chronic (subclinical) mastitis are not always noticed in the Milk Production Registration (MPR), because of the fluctuations in their somatic cell count. They can, however, be detected by the MQC-C since these measurements are daily and therefore display fluctuations in somatic cell count patterns.
Lely MQC-C for frequent screening
The MQC-C enables the construction of individual cow SCC profiles which take (natural) daily variations into account. Deviating patterns in the SCC profile enable an earlier and better-supported diagnosis of mastitis episodes. Frequent measurements and the availability of udder health profiles, including all relevant udder health parameters (such as those included in the health reports) in combination with other parameters (such as conductivity and milk yield) support a transition towards effective selective dry cow therapy.
Lely helps prepare a cow to transition to a successful dry off. We do this by automatically lowering the amount of milkings and fed concentrates (and therefore the milk yield) of the cow towards the end of lactation. With additional sensor data from the MQC-C, for example, a cows udder health profile can be used to support the farmer in administering the dry off treatment per cow.
Cameron, M., McKenna, S. L., MacDonald, K. A., Dohoo, I. R., Roy, J. P., & Keefe, G. P. (2014). Evaluation of selective dry cow treatment following on-farm culture: Risk of postcalving intramammary infection and clinical mastitis in the subsequent lactation. Journal of Dairy Science, 97(1), 270–284. https://doi.org/10.3168/jds.2013-7060
Dalen, G., Rachah, A., Nørstebø, H., Schukken, Y. H., & Reksen, O. (2019). The detection of intramammary infections using online somatic cell counts. Journal of Dairy Science, 102(6), 5419–5429. https://doi.org/10.3168/jds.2018-15295
De Haas, Y., Veerkamp, R. F., Barkema, H. W., Gröhn, Y. T., & Schukken, Y. H. (2004). Associations between pathogen-specific cases of clinical mastitis and somatic cell count patterns. Journal of Dairy Science, 87(1), 95–105. https://doi.org/10.3168/jds.S0022-0302(04)73146-X
Deng, Z., Hogeveen, H., Lam, T. J. G. M., van der Tol, R., & Koop, G. (2020). Performance of Online Somatic Cell Count Estimation in Automatic Milking Systems. Frontiers in Veterinary Science, 7(April). https://doi.org/10.3389/fvets.2020.00221
Green, L. E., Schukken, Y. H., & Green, M. J. (2006). On distinguishing cause and consequence: Do high somatic cell counts lead to lower milk yield or does high milk yield lead to lower somatic cell count? Preventive Veterinary Medicine, 76(1–2), 74–89. https://doi.org/10.1016/J.PREVETMED.2006.04.012
Halasa, T., Nielen, M., Roos, A. P. W. De, Hoorne, R. Van, Jong, G. de, Lam, T. J. G. M., Werven, T. van, & Hogeveen, H. (2009). Production loss due to new subclinical mastitis in Dutch dairy cows estimated with a test-day model. Journal of Dairy Science, 92(2), 599–606. https://doi.org/10.3168/jds.2008-1564
KNMVD. (2013). Richtlijn Antimicrobiële middelen bij het droogzetten van melkkoeien. https://www.knmvd.nl/app/uploads/2018/07/RICHTLIJN-DROOGZETTEN-MELKKOEIEN.pdf
Landers, T. F., Cohen, B., Wittum, T. E., & Larson, E. L. (2012). A Review of Antibiotic Use in Food Animals: Perspective, Policy, and Potential. Public Health Reports, 127, 4–22. https://doi.org/10.1177/003335491212700103