Following the introduction of new laws governing antibiotic use, Dutch farmers had to reduce their antibiotic use by 70% between 2009 and 2015. Most dairy farmers chose the reduction in blanket dry cow therapy as a way to achieve this figure.
Christian Scherpenzeel, a vet, teamed up with a group of researchers from Utrecht University and found that by dividing cows into two groups at their last DHI (Dairy Herd Improvement) test, they could reduce antibiotic use by 85%. The research team decided to treat any first-lactation cow over 150,000 SCC and any older cow over 250,000 with antibiotics when drying off.
This resulted in cows not treated having higher cell counts at calving but at manageable levels. The level of clinical mastitis was 1.7 times higher in cows not treated. Cell counts at calving were also higher.
Christian Scherpenzeel said Dutch vets take a more whole-farm approach to prevention and improvement of animal welfare, while farmers are happy to pay for this service with the savings made from less antibiotic purchases.