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Don’t Play the Weight-guessing Game

December 21, 2017
POSTED BY: Richard Wallace | DVM, MS | Managing Veterinarian | Dairy Technical Services | Zoetis

Antibiotic dosages are determined by individual cattle body weight.

At Zoetis, we define “responsible use of antibiotics” as administering medication under the guidance of a veterinarian, following the directions on the approved product label and using only the amount needed to treat the problem. Therefore, we are using antibiotics responsibly only when we factor in appropriate dosage based on accurate, individual body weight.

Commonly, dairies determine antibiotic dosage based on visual estimates of weight for large and small cows. Generally speaking, a large cow is a large cow; however, this practice of “eyeballing” presents a big risk in under- or overdosing of antibiotics, as doses vary greatly given differences in body weight. For example, recommended antibiotic dosage differs for a 1,500-pound cow versus an 1,800-pound cow.

The impact of under- and overdosing antibiotics:

Without capturing accurate, individual body weights, cattle may be underdosed, which can decrease antibiotic efficacy or create poor response to treatment. This can result in increased treatment and labor costs due to disease relapse. Even more, dairies may be at increased risk for residues if other antibiotics are introduced and Federal Drug Administration-mandated withdrawal times aren’t followed. On the other hand, overdosing cows with antibiotics increases risk of violative residues in milk and meat and increases treatment costs, as more product than needed is being used. Keep in mind that overdosing isn’t just administering too much of a product — cows also can be overdosed based on volume of antibiotic administered per injection site.

What can you do?

  • Stop guessing.
  • Capture individual weights with a weight tape or digital cattle scale.
  • Weigh cows at freshening, one month post-calving and at dry off to monitor for weight fluctuations that could indicate potential metabolic issues that may require treatment.
  • Follow product labels.

Through responsible use of antibiotics, we all can help maintain the effectiveness of these important resources. Accurate body weight data allows for more accurate antibiotic dosing, resulting in improved treatment efficacy and prevention of residues in milk and meat. Work with your herd veterinarian and local Zoetis territory business manager to have a discussion on how to build a more strategic plan on proper dosing of antibiotics.

GDR-00339

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