Prudent Use of Antibiotics in Dairy Cows: The Nordic Approach to Udder Health

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Source: Frontiers in Veterinary Science

Päivi Rajala-Schultz1*, Ane Nødtvedt2, Tariq Halasa3 and Karin Persson Waller4
  • 1Department of Production Animal Medicine, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
  • 2Department of Production Animal Clinical Sciences, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Ås, Norway
  • 3Section of Welfare and Disease Control, Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, Institute of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark
  • 4Department of Animal Health and Antimicrobial Strategies, National Veterinary Institute (SVA), Uppsala, Sweden

Global concerns regarding bacterial antibiotic resistance demand prudent use of antibiotics in livestock production. Dairy production in the Nordic countries has a low consumption of antibiotics, while animal health, productivity and milk quality are at high levels. Here, we describe the basis of Nordic mastitis control and treatment strategies, as a model for production of high-quality milk with prudent use of antibiotics. We hope this will be beneficial for dairy producers and advisors in other countries and regions that consider limiting antibiotic use in cattle herds. In this perspectives paper we describe the dairy sector in the Nordic countries, and present regulatory aspects of antibiotic use, diagnostics and current guidelines for treatment of clinical mastitis as well as dry cow therapy. We also show summary statistics of udder health indicators in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden, to illustrate the effects of the implemented udder health management practices.

Introduction

Antibiotic resistance is a global concern because of its fast spread not only in human, but also in animal populations (13). A common feature for livestock production in the Nordic countries is the constant focus on prudent use of antibiotics. The overall consumption of antibiotics in animal populations in Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden is the lowest among European countries, as measured by mg of active ingredients per kg of estimated biomass of animal populations (4). Reports on sales of veterinary antimicrobial agents in European countries are published regularly by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and comparative sales figures can be found on these reports. Moreover, the tradition of prudent antibiotic use in production animals goes back several decades and has contributed to low levels of antibiotic resistance in bacteria isolated from this sector across the Nordic countries (56). In general, antibiotic resistance is quite uncommon in dairy cattle in the region, compared to that in other species and regions.

Dairy production has long traditions in the region and stakeholders across the country borders collaborate actively on various issues. As an example, joint Nordic guidelines for treatment of mastitis in dairy cows were agreed upon in a consensus meeting initiated by the Nordic collaborative group of dairy processors and published in 2009 (7). Generally, initiation of antibiotic treatment for intramammary infections is expected to be based on microbiologic diagnosis and benzylpenicillin is the drug of choice in most cases. Prophylactic use of antibiotics is discouraged in all production animals in the region.

The aim of this paper is to describe the basis of Nordic mastitis control and treatment strategies, as a model for high-quality milk production with prudent use of antibiotics. The focus will be on data from Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden. We describe the dairy sector in the region, regulatory aspects of antibiotic use, diagnostics and current guidelines for treatment of clinical mastitis as well as for dry cow therapy. Further, we will present summary statistics regarding udder health indicators to demonstrate some outcomes of the existing control and treatment strategies.

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