The objective of this randomized controlled trial was to assess the efficacy of an on-farm culture system using Petrifilm (3M, London, ON, Canada) for targeted treatment decisions at the quarter level at dry-off and its effects on dry period intramammary infections (IMI) and udder health and milk production in the subsequent lactation. A total of 568 cows (2,247 quarters) from 9 dairy herds with bulk tank somatic cell count <250,000 cells/mL in Québec, Canada, were systematically enrolled and randomly allocated to 4 groups: 2 quarter-based selective (QSDCT) groups, using results of quarter-milk culture on Petrifilm, and 2 blanket dry cow therapy (BDCT) groups. The 2 QSDCT groups consisted of (1) antimicrobial to infected quarters and internal teat sealant (ITS) to healthy quarters (QSDCT/ITS); and (2) antimicrobial and ITS to infected quarters and ITS to healthy quarters (QSDCT+ITS/ITS). The 2 BDCT groups were (1) antimicrobial alone to all quarters (BDCT); and (2) antimicrobial and ITS to all quarters (BDCT+ITS). Quarter milk samples were collected at dry-off and after calving for routine bacteriological culture at the laboratory to monitor IMI; data on milk production, somatic cell count, and clinical mastitis recorded up to 120 d in milk were retrieved from health and DHI records. The probability of avoiding antimicrobial treatment in QSDCT groups was estimated at 48.3% (95% confidence interval: 35.7, 60.9). There was no significant difference between the 4 treatment groups regarding acquisition of new IMI (15.9, 13.2, 15.8, and 15.1% probability for BDCT, BDCT+ITS, QSDCT/ITS, and QSDCT+ITS/ITS, respectively) or persistence of existing IMI (3.2, 2.1, 3.4, and 2.7% probability, respectively) over the dry period. In the subsequent lactation, there was no difference between groups regarding incidence of clinical mastitis (2.4, 3.7, 2.9, and 1.7% respectively for BDCT, BDCT+ITS, QSDCT/ITS, and QSDCT+ITS/ITS), mean milk somatic cell score (1.7, 2.0, 2.0, and 2.0 respectively), or mean daily milk production (43.8, 44.2, 43.2, and 42.6 kg/d, respectively) during the first 120 d in milk. In conclusion, QSDCT using the Petrifilm on-farm culture system to detect infected quarters at dry-off is an interesting option to decrease antibiotic use without any negative effects on udder health or milk production in the first 120 d of the subsequent lactation compared with BDCT.
Keywords: dry period intramammary infection mastitis on-farm culture selective antibiotic treatment