Accountability of dairy welfare, judicious use of drugs, and dairy management (Proceedings)


Opponents of food animal use rhetoric and disturbing images to incriminate lack of welfare, criticize drug usage, and incriminate modern care practices if they weren't the same method of care as in the past. They have an audience of consumers that have little or no knowledge of food animal care.

Opponents of food animal use rhetoric and disturbing images to incriminate lack of welfare, criticize drug usage, and incriminate modern care practices if they weren't the same method of care as in the past. They have an audience of consumers that have little or no knowledge of food animal care. Many of the consumers can only base their beliefs on comparisons with treatment of companion animals.

As messengers of the animal care story we are an even smaller proportion of the population than the agricultural community, but when we keep the welfare of the animal as the priority as we stated in the development of the written treatment protocol we have a credible position that offsets the loss of credibility we experience because we are a business that supports agriculture. However to maintain that credibility we need to be accountable that what we say is being offered is actually the cow side practices.

The treatment records kept cow side can be developed into herd monitors that will demonstrate accountability and reach beyond rhetoric to tangible measures of the practices performed by dairies. Even the 3rd party welfare audits, which have been developed with the best intentions, are still based on rhetoric. With a little organization we can use cow side records to demonstrate early and complete detection of mild cases of the conditions treated and the drug protocol will demonstrate the drug attitude of the dairy.

Mastitis is a good condition to use as an example for welfare, drug usage, and the dairies practices. The written protocol sets the stage to go beyond words to hard data with nothing more complex than the organizing a 1 definition/ 1 treatment /1 recording plan. With this modest recording we can to collate records for tangible information about:

     • How much mastitis is there? (Cases/100 cows for a time period)

     • The sensitivity of the detection process especially towards mild cases can be measured

           o The proportion of cows with mild cases is an indicator to sensitivity of detecting mastitis. (Depending on the dominant pathogen between 50-70% mild cases is expected.)

           o The proportion of primary cases with subclinical mastitis is an indicator of sensitivity of detection. (Expect <40% of cases to start with SCC>200,000 when mild cases are detected.)

           o The proportion of cows that have a primary case versus a second or more case is an indicator of detection sensitivity. (Expect >60% of cases to be primary.)

           o The inclusion of pre strip in the mastitis technique is an indicator of attitude to detection of mild cases. (Mild cases can't be found without pre-stripping by condition definition.)

     • Prudent drug usage can be demonstrated in the mild cases treatment plan?

           o Both in the written protocols and treatment remarks include the herd's drug usage policy.

     • Protocol drift is easily detected by regular monitoring of current cases. (Drift is an indication of dissatisfaction.)

           o The milking protocol can drift – (Dip , strip, dry, and apply)

           o The Clinical mastitis SOP can drift – (detection, examination, treatment decision and assessment)

           o Treatments can drift from written treatment plan and recording compliance

           o People can drift from the condition definition/drug protocol plan

To accomplish this list of tangible accountabilities an additional piece of data needed to be included with a case of mastitis; the pre mastitis SCC if we wanted to measure the proportion of cases that have a high SCC pre mastitis. Adding information to the recording instructions is easy when we make the entry efficient and the information has value for the dairy also.

However the concern level on most dairies is for the more severe cases treatment plans. However when we understand the magnitude and epidemiology of the mild group the management of drugs and prevention improves. Depending on what is found is being done currently, the mild cases is also where the most improvement in the managing of mastitis costs and return is likely to be found.

Mastitis accounts for a lot of the use of antibiotics on the dairy and depending on the dominant endemic pathogens mild cases have accounted for approximately 50%of the cases when gram negative dominate and up to 70% when gram positives are dominant.

Table 1 actual herd data from 1500 cow dairy

Table 1 is a listing of actual herd data from a 1500 cow dairy that records severity, quarter and protocol with a case of mastitis. The records demonstrate the herd policy toward detection of mild cases and the accountability that what is said and written is indeed happening.

Table 2 summary of proportions that demonstrate sensitivity

There is a welfare concern on the opposite scale from the mild case requiring additional accountability for al consumer concern and more importantly for the welfare of the cow. For some of the consuming public the welfare of a farm is defined completely different and is measured as the care of the poorest animals on the dairy. Therefore our accountability needs to demonstrate the recognition and care of the problem cows both through the written protocol and a record demonstrating our involvement.

     • Welfare of problem cows

           o Treatment or removal from the herd with veterinary awareness. This means we will need a way to recognize treatment failure and problem cows even before we are asked.

     • Judicious use of drug

           o Whenever we should, as long as we need to, as short as we can, in a medically appropriate manner

           o These cows frequently receive extra label drug usage, which needs to be monitored for medical rational.

     • Dairy programs-

           o Responsible to identification and care of adverse reactions (treatment failures)

           o Problem cows were defined in the written treatment protocol for the manager

Problem cows are those that need professional attention, although the proportion may vary per dairy dependent on the level of competency of the responsible care people. There is opportunity for us to find value to the dairy for this work that goes beyond welfare accountability. Value is available if we develop information useful for prevention of future such problem cows.

At the dairy level these cows can almost bring a discussion about treatment protocols to a complete stop because while these represent the minority of animals they represent a majority of on-farm concern. We need to lift this group of cows off the shoulders of those giving daily care. Assuming the responsibility for this group is not a pleasant task from our standpoint but is necessary.

The supervision requirement for AMDUCA is the key to successful accomplishment of all three of our accountability objectives; welfare, judicious use of drugs, and the identification of problem cows in the treatment plan. A list of cows currently under treatment can be available for supervision of all treatments and detection of problem cows when cases are recorded.

The value of supervision of the cows currently being treated is accomplished efficiently with a log of treatments and individual animals needing profession input can be identified.

     • 6124 is day 2 of a severe case of a young cow giving 127 pounds of milk. (Is she toxic shock?)

     • 5371 is a mild gram+ case. (What duration of therapy do you want?)

     • 6016 is a mild no growth case and 117 pounds milk. (Treat or no treat?)

     • 6357 is a moderate case still under treatment 14 days after detection. (What's wrong?)


     • The record keeping plan in the written protocol is critical for saving the information that makes accountability tangible.

     • Emphasis on our part to the detection sensitivity toward mild cases and a medically appropriate treatment plan for them are the basis of accountability of the majority of drug usage.

     • Supervision of all current cases gives us opportunity for timely evaluation cow side of the management practices, detection of the problem cows that need professional intervention, and the chance to do 1 on 1 training of the personnel specifically for the written mastitis protocols.

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