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Vet Microbiol. 2009 Feb 16;134(1-2):128-35. doi: 10.1016/j.vetmic.2008.09.019. Epub 2008 Sep 12.

Control of heifer mastitis: antimicrobial treatment-an overview.

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  • 1Animal and Dairy Science Department, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602, USA.


Initial studies in Louisiana, USA to determine the prevalence of mastitis in breeding age dairy heifers demonstrated that intramammary infections (IMIs) were present in 97% of heifers and 75% of quarters. Most common isolates were Staphylococcus aureus, Staphylococcus hyicus, and Staphylococcus chromogenes; somatic cell counts (SCCs) ranged from 12.4 to 17.3 x 10(6)ml(-1). Histologic examination of Staph. aureus-infected quarters demonstrated significant reductions in alveolar epithelial and luminal areas, and increases in connective tissue and leukocytosis, illustrating limited secretory development and marked inflammation. A one-time infusion of various nonlactating cow antibiotic preparations into infected quarters during different stages of gestation but >45 days prepartum resulted in cure rates for Staph. aureus IMI of 67-100%. Mean SCC was 50% lower at calving for treated heifers, and milk yield over the first 2 months of lactation was 10% greater than that of untreated controls. Subsequent multiple herd studies, however, revealed that use of nonlactating cow therapy was beneficial only in herds exhibiting a high prevalence of heifer mastitis and not in low prevalence herds. Results of lactating cow antibiotic therapy infused 1-2 weeks prepartum demonstrated cure rates of 59-76% vs. 26-31.7% in untreated controls. In some studies, milk production during the first lactation in treated heifers was approximately 10% higher than untreated controls, and SCC were significantly lower; however, in other studies, prepartum treatment was successful in reducing prevalence of infection but had no effect on SCC or milk yield during the subsequent lactation. Thus, treatment of heifers is advantageous because the cure rate is much higher than during lactation, there is no milk loss, and risk of antibiotic residues minimal; however, successful therapy may not necessarily result in lowered SCC and increased milk production in all herds.

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