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Treating mastitis without using antibiotics

Reducing the use of antibiotics on livestock farms has become a new goal, particularly in the dairy industry, but many farmers find it difficult to replace them.

The tide is changing as governments, supermarkets and other bodies are calling for a complete reduction in the use of antibiotics. While the determination to do so might be there and alternative products are available, it’s the mind set of some farmers that is the stumbling block.

Mastitis continues to be one of the most persistent diseases to challenge dairy industries across the world from a health and welfare perspective to the cow and an economic impact to the dairy farmer.

Photo: Henk Riswick
Photo: Henk Riswick

New science

New science has produced alternatives to antibiotics which can completely clean out a cow’s udder that is infected with mastitis and other bacterial infections.

Started five years ago Dutch company AHV International is growing fast and is using its expertise to develop a number of natural products that are providing welcome results on farms.

AHV International co-founder and veterinarian Gertjan Streefland said: “Antimicrobial resistance is not a new phenomenon. The plant kingdom has been dealing with this issue almost since the beginning of time. Fortunately, modern scientific research has succeeded in identifying how nature has successfully dealt with this problem.

“AHV was established to convert this science into practical solutions for livestock farmers, who have to deal with the disease-related impact of bacterial infection on a regular basis.

“What we now know is that bacteria must gather together in groups in order to coordinate an action and have an impact on the host animal. To make this happen they must communicate with each other through a process called ‘quorum sensing’. In essence, individual bacteria emit signal molecules so as to make this grouping process come about.

“In response, AHV New Pharma solutions have been developed to disrupt this communication process, thereby abolishing the impact that pathogenic bacteria could have when entering a host animal.

“We also know that attacking bacteria produce a biofilm around their cells, which acts to prevent attacks by antibiotics and the animal’s own immune cells. The product range also acts to break down these biofilms and supports the cow’s natural immune system.

“And, because of this combined activity, invading pathogenic bacteria are more predisposed to attack by the host’s immune system. The end result is a process which directly impacts on the ability of pathogenic bacteria to cause disease without a reliance on antibiotics,” he said.

AHV International is based in Zwolle in the Netherlands and has developed a number of products including boluses for mastitis and a powder mix for giving calves a good start in life.

Farmers’ experience

Siem de Boer runs 300 cows in partnership with his brother Jan on their farm near Edam around 50km from Amsterdam.

“We were having a lot of cases of mastitis in the herd as well as crypto which left us with unhealthy calves and loss of milk sales,” said Siem.

“I decided to use the AHV Cow Extra boluses to tackle mastitis which worked and had no withdrawal period for the milk.

“The bolus helps all parts of the quarter and really does get rid of the mastitis. I give around 30% of my cows a bolus these days which really helps.
“All the calves are fed nine litres of milk per day for two weeks and I now mix AHV’s Calfstart into the mix which has cleared up the crypto.

“Currently, I have managed to reduce my use of antibiotics to around 20% of the herd.”

Wim Lubbersen farms with his twin sons Kevin and Twan at Holten in the Netherlands milking 190 cows. They have managed to reduce the antibiotic use in the milking cows down to zero in just three months after using the cow boluses to reduce the somatic cell count.

Photo: Chris McCullough
Photo: Chris McCullough

“We use the boluses on cows with high cell counts,” said Wim. “And we use the Calf Start mixed in the milk for the young calves.

“Since starting to use the products we noticed very quickly a reduction in the number of cases of mastitis. Our herd average yield is around 11,000 kg in 305 days with the cell count currently running at 100,000,” he said.

AHV International is currently developing a product that will dry cows off in just one day and this will be introduced soon.

The company adds that cow boluses would treat other problems such as mycoplasma bovis in dairy cows.