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RESPONSIBLE use of antibiotics and concerns surrounding antimicrobial resistance (AMR) are pervading all areas of both veterinary and human medicine. It is the prescribing clinician's responsibility to ensure that the use of antimicrobials is justified in all situations. Increasingly, the assurances justifying the prescription and use of antibiotics are under scrutiny and may in the future be subject to challenge on a number of fronts. The routine use of antibiotics at drying off in dairy cows is one such area of reappraisal and challenge.
In order to validate and uphold the principles of responsible use of antimicrobials, analysis of past prescribing practices and outcomes must be combined with robust clinical research evidence. Even a cursory analysis of on-farm and within-practice data has the potential to influence future prescribing; challenging and reappraising the necessity for antibiotic prescribing in certain clinical situations has been known to lead to a marked reduction in antibiotic use.
When critically appraising the current approach to drying off dairy cows, it is worth looking not only at current and future drivers for change but also at how we got to where we are today. Many factors have influenced the approach to managing dairy cows at the end of lactation: the social environment (attitudes to antibiotic use), pharmacological environment (products available) and physical environment that cows occupy have all seen significant change.
Antibiotic dry cow therapy (aDCT) was introduced in the 1950s as part of a structured mastitis control plan (Five-Point Mastitis Control Plan) developed at the National Institute for Research in Dairying at the University of Reading. Slow release antibiotic preparations infused into each quarter of a cow at drying off not only improved the chance of elimination of existing intramammary infections (IMI) but also afforded the cow some protection from new IMI during …