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New Guide for Dairy Farmers helps them reduce antibiotic use in treating Mastitis

Written By Editor on 12/20/21 | 12/20/21

ONEONTA, N.Y. – On December 20, 2021, the Center for Agricultural Development and
Entrepreneurship (CADE), in collaboration with Cornell University’s Quality MIlk Production
Service (QMPS) - Eastern Regional Laboratory in Cobleskill, New York, and with funding from
the New York Farm Viability Institute, are pleased to announce the launch of a guide for New
York dairy farmers to assist them in implementing selective dry cow therapy (SDCT) as a
primary method for preventing mastitis in their dairy cows. The guide can be found on a new
According to Phoebe Schreiner, CADE Executive Director, “the guide is a sound reference tool for dairy
farmers, herd veterinarians, dairy industry consultants, and extension agents for implementing SDCT
on dairy farms, as an alternative to the current standard practice of blanket dry cow therapy (BDCT).
Implementing SDCT will advance antimicrobial stewardship and help reduce antibiotic use, which has
a range of financial benefits to farmers and public health benefits for our communities.”
Since the 1960s, it has been a common practice on dairy farms to use BDCT--to administer
antimicrobial drugs that prevent and treat costly mammary infections to all cows as they enter a dry
off period. That practice was warranted at the time. But since then, great improvements in animal care,
milking techniques, and animal specific record keeping have reduced both infection rates during
lactation and the need for blanket treatment at dry off.
Collaborators at Cornell University, University of Minnesota, Dairy Health and other private veterinary
practices, QMPS, CADE, and other industry allies have validated SDCT protocol that allows dairy
farmers to reduce their use of dry cow antibiotic treatments by 50-80+% without negatively impacting
cow health or production, while saving money on treatments.
According to the SDCT guide, dairy farmers who transition to SDCT reduce pharmaceutical and
treatment costs, averaging a savings of $6-$20 per cow in antibiotic tube costs alone, as well as
reduced labor costs. The guide also notes that SDCT is proven safe and effective for herd health on
well managed farms when protocols are followed and cows are enrolled systematically.
According to Schreiner, “CADE is committed to sustainable farm practices that benefit business
bottom lines, people, and planet. Our goal is to make SDCT the ‘new norm’ in New York State, with


half the State’s dairy cows enrolled in the practice by 2024. Our collaborators, NYFVI, Cornell
University, Dairy Health, and QMPS share this commitment.”
According to Kenneth Jaffe, MD–CADE Board member, farmer, and medical doctor, “though dry cow
therapy represents a fraction of the antibiotics used in livestock, a transition to SDCT among dairy
farmers in New York and across the U.S. will make a meaningful impact in total antimicrobial use.
Whether medicines are used to treat people or animals, using them conservatively and treating only
those that need it can help prevent antimicrobial resistance and keep antibiotics effective. Now, thanks
to a better understanding of cow health, including the factors that drive mastitis risk at dry-off, cows
can also be treated selectively.”
The public health consensus is that the overuse of antibiotics to treat people or animals leads harmful
bacteria to become "resistant" to the antibiotics. This makes antibiotics less effective in treating
infections in humans and animals alike. According to the Center for Disease Control, antibiotic
resistant infection is now a major and increasing risk to human health such that 35,000 people die
every year in the U.S. because of antibiotic resistant infection.
Consumers and buyers are increasingly aware of the risks of antibiotic resistance, and are already
showing interest in buying dairy and meat products from farms that advance antibiotic stewardship. In
2020, for example, four school districts in Tompkins County, New York prioritized bids from food
suppliers that sourced their beef from farms that had adopted selective instead of blanket dry cow
treatment. More, demand is growing for labels to be used on foods of animal origin (see this article,
“Antimicrobial‐resistant bacterial infections from foods of animal origin: understanding and effectively
communicating to consumers”).
In the words of Mike Zurakowski, Senior Extension Associate with QMPS who helped develop the
guide, “now, thanks to a better understanding of cow health, including the factors that drive mastitis
risk at dry-off, cows can also be treated selectively. Many, but not all, farms are at the right stage with
their mastitis management practices to adopt this approach. Since it’s a matter of herd health, it is
essential that dairy farmers consult their veterinarians before making changes.”

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