Six ways to cut antibiotics use in your dairy herd

Dairy farmers need to do more to reduce use of antibiotics, both to save money, improve cow health and tackle antibiotics resistance in humans. And visitors to the RABDF NMR Gold Cup open day at Neil Baker’s Rushywood Farm, Crewkerne, Somerset, found out how it’s done.

According to Duncan Williams from Kite Consulting, if the industry doesn’t voluntarily reduce antibiotics usage, it won’t be long before legislation forces farmers into it.

“The third generation cephalosporins like Naxcel, Exceed and Draxxin are often used because there’s no milk withdrawal period – but they are essential for life-saving treatment in hospitals so we are being asked as an industry to move away from them,” he said.

See also: Selective dry cow therapy cuts antibiotic use

Here are Dr Williams’ six top tips for reducing antibiotics use on your farm:

  1. It’s all about working with your vet and having gold-standard protocols. Consider putting a teat brush in the parlour – consistency drives performance so teat preparation should be identical every time. This will drive down mastitis and therefore antibiotics use.
  2. Use selective dry cow therapy. Rather than blanket-treating all dry cows, work with your vet to treat only those at risk.
  3. Reduce lameness. Frequent mobility/lameness scoring will drive treatment decisions. Well-designed sheds with sand cubicles and wide passageways will reduce digital dermatitis and white line disease too.
  4. Minimise movement between groups to minimise cow stress. Stressed cows succumb to lameness and disease more easily than relaxed cows.
  5. Continue to treat sick cows – some will still need antibiotics, but it should be targeted, not routine.
  6. Work with your vet to switch to medicines that have less impact on human health and resistance.