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Avoid hidden costs of antibiotic treatments

November 07, 2013
POSTED BY: Mark Kirkpatrick | DVM, MS | Managing Veterinarian | Dairy Technical Services | Zoetis

Managing a dairy business in this economy is tough. When margins are tight, the cost of a treatment can seem more important than how well it works. However, the true cost of the treatment can go well beyond the initial purchase price, especially if you are using it in an extra-label fashion. When deciding on which treatment to use, don’t overlook potential hidden expenses and animal health impacts that could cost you more in the long run.

Consider these Dairy Wellness tips to avoid the hidden treatment costs that aren’t written on the bottle.

  1. Understand the disease

Understanding the disease itself will help you identify the treatment that will give you the greatest chance of curing it.

Metritis is a perfect example. It typically begins when an Escherichia coli (E. coli) infection develops in the uterus and opens the door for subsequent infections from other bacteria. An antibiotic such as penicillin doesn’t have the range to attack an E. coli infection, and going off-label won’t help. If you aren’t using an effective treatment, the total cost of the administered product could be higher and you could be spending more in additional treatments when the first one doesn’t work.

  1. Evaluate treatment protocols

Treatment protocols are designed to consider many variables. Protocols can vary depending on the disease and products available to treat it. Written protocols should include the route of administration, dosage and duration to cure the disease as defined by your veterinarian. Training your employees to record and strictly comply with these protocols, and working with your veterinarian to monitor treatment outcomes, will minimize the chance of disease relapse or failure. When you adhere to your protocols, you can evaluate the true cost of a treatment rather than just the cost of a bottle.

  1. Avoid violative drug residues

Treatments that require milk withdrawals aren’t necessarily dairy-friendly, and you must follow withdrawal times to avoid violative drug residues. If your raw milk tests positive for an antibiotic once commingled, you could incur expenses to cover the cost of disposing the tanker plus fines from food safety officials. On-label treatments that come with zero milk discard remove the potentially hefty hidden cost of a residue violation.

  1. Minimize pen moves

When a treatment requires a milk withdrawal, the cow must be moved to a pen with other treated cattle. Anytime a cow is moved — even back to her original pen — she needs to familiarize herself with her surroundings and establish her social rank.1 Cows under social stress spend less time eating and lying down, and they produce less milk.2

Pen moves also can be costly if a cow contracts another illness. When a cow is already ill, her immune system is weaker and the risk of contracting another disease is high. If a cow contracts another disease, she may be too sick to treat. Consult with your herd veterinarian before providing additional treatments.

Avoiding hidden costs can be easy when you use products with effective, on-label protocols that also are dairy-friendly. Anything else can end up costing you more money. Ask your veterinarian to help you determine which treatments not only work but also are cost-effective and best suited for your operation.

1 Boe KE, Faerevik G. Grouping and social preferences in calves, heifers, and cows. Appl. Anim. Behav. Sci. 2003. 80:175-190.

2 von Keyserlingk MA, Olenick D, Weary DM. Acute behavioral effects of regrouping dairy cows. J Dairy Sci. 2008;91(3): 1011-1016.

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