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J Dairy Sci. 2017 Apr;100(4):2909-2916. doi: 10.3168/jds.2016-11923. Epub 2017 Jan 26.

Understanding veterinarians' prescribing decisions on antibiotic dry cow therapy.

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Institute of Veterinary Science, University of Liverpool, Cheshire, CH64 7TE, United Kingdom. Electronic address:
School of Psychology, University of Surrey, Guildford, Surrey, GU2 7XH, United Kingdom.
Westpoint Veterinary Group, Dawes Farm, Warnham, West Sussex, RH12 3SH, United Kingdom.
School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Surrey, Guildford, Surrey, GU2 7TE, United Kingdom.


In the United Kingdom, blanket antibiotic dry cow therapy (BDCT) is commonly prescribed. An alternate strategy is selective dry cow therapy (SDCT) whereby a teat sealant is given instead of an antibiotic to cows with a low probability of infection. Switching from BDCT to SDCT can significantly reduce antibiotic use. The aims of this study were to explore how veterinarians (vets) rationalized their prescribing decisions for mammary treatments at drying off, and the barriers and motivators they perceived to implementing SDCT. Face-to-face interviews were conducted with 20 purposively recruited vets from 6 practices in England, United Kingdom. The data were analyzed qualitatively using an inductive thematic analysis. The majority of participants stated a personal preference for SDCT because it constitutes more responsible antibiotic use. On the majority of farms, the prescribing decision was taken by a senior veterinarian and BDCT was prescribed. Less experienced vets expressed a desire to be more involved in the decision-making process. The first theme, prioritizing responsible antimicrobial prescribing, encapsulated the difficulties vets expressed engaging with farmers, conflicts of interest, and vets' determination to take action. The second theme, the effect of a vet's experience on their ability to influence farmers, focused on the specific challenges faced by less experienced vets and the importance of vets being both trusted by farmers and being knowledgeable. The third theme, vets' perceptions about the risk and complexity of implementing SDCT, revealed markedly different levels of concern and fears about adverse outcomes with teat sealants versus antibiotics. The results also showed differences in perceptions about how difficult SDCT is to implement in practice. The last theme, vets' suggestions for facilitating the introduction of SDCT, was wide ranging and provided useful insight from a veterinary perspective into ways to facilitate SDCT. Initiatives that seek to alter vets' perceptions of the risks associated with switching to using SDCT are likely to prove useful in facilitating change. Our results also suggest that it is vital for senior vets to take a leading role in facilitating farms to implement SDCT. Less experienced colleagues may benefit from more help from senior vets to gain the trust of farmers and to become involved more quickly in herd-level preventive medicine. Vets must work together and take a united approach to reduce antimicrobial use.


antimicrobial resistance; facilitating behavior change; prescribing decision; trust and risk perception

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