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Extension > Agriculture > Dairy Extension > Milk quality and mastitis > Six selection factors for mastitis tubes

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Six selection factors for mastitis tubes

Emily Wilmes, Extension Educator

Somehow, spring is quickly heating up into summer. For dairy farmers that means the return of the season that brings the highest number of mastitis cases on their farms. I spend a lot of time talking about managing cows to prevent mastitis, such as keeping the environment dry and clean and separating cows that have a contagious pathogen. Sometimes, no matter how well you manage your cows to prevent mastitis, a cow will still come down with it. You may find your only solution is to treat the cow’s infected quarters with a mastitis tube.

Prior to coming to Extension, I worked for a company selling mastitis tubes. I noticed that many farms used a single type of tube on all mastitis cases. Although that is not bad, it may not be the most effective method. It is important to treat for the pathogens you are fighting, and not all mastitis tubes treat every pathogen. It is crucial to understand every selection factor related to picking the “right” mastitis treatment for your herd. With treatment costs averaging $13 to $18 per mastitis case, you may find some financial reward in treating cows with the right product.

Understanding the different components of mastitis tubes and their labeling can help you select the correct treatment for your infected cows. A good first step is to culture the milk of infected cows. Culturing can determine the specific pathogen and whether the pathogen is gram negative or gram positive. This allows for smart treatment, and may save on time, labor, and cost. As always, you should consult with your veterinarian before administering any medication to your animals

Six selection factors to consider when choosing a treatment

Each of these selection factors are applicable to both lactating and dry cow tubes.

  1. Antibiotic—The antibiotic is the actual drug that the mastitis tube contains. Some examples of antibiotics are amoxicillin, ampicillin, and penicillin. Knowing the drug in your mastitis tube is helpful, as some herds can become immune or resistant to certain drugs over time.
  2. Bactericidal vs. Bacteriostatic Treatment—These two terms refer to what the antibiotic does to the bacteria/pathogen. Bactericidal treatments will kill the bacteria; bacteriostatic treatments will slow the bacteria’s growth or reproduction. The majority of mastitis tubes on the market are bactericidal.
  3. Spectrum—The spectrum of the tube indicates the range of bacteria an antibiotic will treat. Broad spectrum tubes will treat a wider range than narrow spectrum tubes; however, narrow spectrum mastitis tubes may be more effective against specific pathogens, especially if you know what pathogens you are treating as a result of culturing milk samples.
  4. Dosage—The dosage tells you the size and frequency of the antibiotic that should be administered to the cow. The units of size are expressed as an entire tube. Frequency can vary from two tubes in 12 hours to one tube every 24 hours for 8 days, and everywhere in between
  5. Milk and Slaughter Withholding Times—The withholding time for milk and slaughter are important to pay attention to. They indicate how long (after the last treatment) the antibiotic will remain present in the cow’s body. Milk or meat found to contain antibiotic residues will be rejected and not used for food products.
  6. Product Indications—The product indications will give you more information about what the mastitis tube is marketed to do. Typically, it will list some common pathogens it treats, type of mastitis it best treats (subclinical/clinical), and sometimes if it treats strains of bacteria resistant to other antibiotics.

After educating yourself and selecting your tubes, it is also important that you administer and manage the medicine properly. Pay close attention to the dosage; you should do only what is instructed to avoid over-medication. If you have any questions about the dosage and whether you should change it, ask your veterinarian. Additionally, pay very close attention to milk and slaughter withdrawal times. Note that these times are listed to begin after the LAST administration of medicine. It is always better to err on the side of caution and withhold for an extra 12 to 24 hours. Keep in mind that milk with antibiotic residues is dumped, and meat is rejected. Following the guidelines is smart, safe, and responsible.

Summer can be a tough time to manage mastitis, but if you take preventative precautions and treat confirmed cases with the right tube, it doesn’t have to rule your management.

June, 2016

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