Prepartum antibiotic treatment of heifers: Milk production, milk quality and economic benefit

S. P. Oliver, M. J. Lewis, B. E. Gillespie, H. H. Dowlen, E. C. Jaenicke, R. K. Roberts

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82 Scopus citations


Prepartum intramammary antibiotic infusion of heifer mammary glands at 7 or 14 d before expected parturition is an effective procedure for eliminating many infections in heifers during late gestation and for reducing the prevalence of mastitis in heifers during early lactation and throughout lactation. Mastitis pathogens were isolated from 76% of samples obtained from untreated control quarters 7 d before expected calving, from 47% of samples obtained 3 d after calving, and from 29% of samples obtained 10 d postpartum. Mastitis pathogens were isolated from about 30% of control quarters through 240 d of lactation. A similar percentage of samples (70%) was positive for mastitis pathogens at C-7 before antibiotic treatment. However, only 8% of samples obtained at 3 d after calving and 4% of samples obtained at 10 d postpartum from quarters of antibiotic-treated heifers contained mastitis pathogens. Throughout the remainder of lactation, mastitis pathogens were isolated from an average of about 11% of quarters. The percentage of samples with mastitis pathogens was higher in untreated controls than in antibiotic-treated quarters at all sampling intervals during lactation. A similar response was observed in heifers that were treated with antibiotics at 14 d before expected parturition. Prepartum antibiotic-treated heifers produced significantly more milk than control heifers and had significantly lower somatic cell count scores than untreated control heifers. These observations are likely associated with or due to the lower prevalence of mastitis pathogen isolation in prepartum antibiotic-treated heifers throughout lactation. Prepartum antibiotic-treated heifers produced 531 kg more milk than heifers in the untreated control group. Multiplying this increase by a milk price of $0.407/kg yielded a $216.24 per-heifer increase in gross revenue. The cost of treatment, including the cost of testing for antibiotic residues, was estimated at $15.60 for a net revenue of $200.64 per heifer. Prepartum antibiotic treatment to reduce the rate of mastitis in heifers during lactation was highly effective and economically beneficial.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1187-1193
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of dairy science
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2003

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics


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