Theo Lam is a veterinarian who graduated in 1990 from Utrecht University, the Netherlands, where he subsequently received his PhD degree. From 1997 to 2006 he was one of twelve partners in private veterinary practice in the eastern part of the country. Then he moved to GD Animal Health in Deventer where he currently is the head of the R&D department. In 2011 Theo was appointed as a part-time professor in Utrecht, focussing on bovine mastitis management and milk quality. Theo was heavily involved in the program to reduce antibiotic usage in cattle in the Netherlands.
Challenges and consequences of restricted antibiotic use in dairy cattle
Theo Lam, Christian Scherpenzeel and Inge Santman-Berends
The Dutch parliament decided that antibiotic usage in the livestock industry had to be decreased by 20% in 2011, by 50% in 2013, and by 70% in 2015, as compared to 2009. Additionally a ban on the preventive use of antibiotics was announced. The dairy sector, as other animal sectors, had to take its responsibility and make a plan to optimize antibiotic usage. Until today that approach is successful. Not only politics are happy with the results, farmers also embraced the approach and seem to be happy with the outcome.
A crucial part of the approach to restrict antibiotic use was to develop a monitoring system that made antibiotic usage transparent at the herd level. This had the aim to monitor antibiotic usage at the national level, but also gave the individual farmer results, including a frame of reference for total antibiotic usage as well as for specific antibiotics and indications.
In dairy cattle decreasing antibiotic usage is difficult when approached from the treatment perspective, because farmers do not treat lactating cows unless necessary. Preventing disease therefore was considered to be potentially more effective. For that reason action was taken at the national level, such as in preparing programs on IBR and BVD, as well as at the level of the individual herd, in farm level health and treatment plans.
The quantitatively most important preventive application of antibiotics in dairy cattle is dry cow treatment (DCT). From 2013 onward, blanket DCT was no longer allowed. Although cow-level studies showed that withholding DCT would lead to an increase in subclinical and clinical mastitis, the effect of applying selective DCT at the herd-level on clinical and subclinical mastitis was limited.
How the reduction in antibiotic usage was approached, what the challenges, successes and consequences were, will be discussed during the presentation.