Reducing antibiotic use through management improvements and immunostimulants

October 10, 2016

There is no shame in having a desire to eliminate antibiotic usage. Residue risk, treatment costs, production loss, culling risk are encountered when a cow becomes sick and requires antibiotic treatment. When a cow requires antibiotic therapy, a failure in the management system has occurred. When there is a system failure, someone with a first and last name is typically to blame. Farmers have a symbiotic relationship with their cattle inferring that they depend on each other for survival. Attitude, management and environment modifications, and new-age immunostimulants reduce antibiotic usage.

With the right attitude and better milk prices, management and environment modifications can greatly decrease antibiotic use, and increase the bottom line. One of the first realizations encountered after improving a transition management program is the reduction in the veterinary bill and drug expenses. When you focus on aggressive calf growth from birth to breeding, treatment costs decline as body condition and vigor improve. Improving ventilation along with a written and fully implemented vaccination protocol, reduce pneumonia treatment costs. Reducing overcrowding, providing ample stall, feed bunk, and water trough space, and providing comfortable beds reduce stress and improve dry matter intakes. Providing a well-balanced ration with excellent forage quality, free of mycotoxins, that meets the cow’s nutrient requirements provides the fuel for the immune system.

Can we achieve these changes? Absolutely. However, we run into bottlenecks. Forage quality varies from year to year. Mycotoxins make life miserable. Poor quality water high in minerals, especially iron, can create more oxidative stress which can suppress immune function. Calving slugs during heat stress happen. Bad weather conditions stress the cow and all personnel. Considering all of these issues, a new wave of immunostimulants are available to boost the immune system.

Elanco’s Imrestor is a newly released product that improves the function and and the number of white blood cells or neutrophils. Imrestor is labeled for use in close-up cows and has data to support a reduction in mastitis of 28% during the first 30 days of lactation. Two subcutaneous injections are required between 4-10 days (7 days) prior to calving and within 24hrs of calving. Imrestor comes in prepackaged syringes, like Posilac, so no mixing is required.

Bayer’s Zelnate DNA Stimulant also enhances the ability of the animal to combat infection. Zelnate aids in the treatment of BRD or Bovine Respiratory Disease associated with Mannheimia haemolytica in cattle older than 4 months of age. Cattle receiving Zelnate after a disease challenge had a significantly lower incidence of mortality and lower lung lesion scores than control animals. Zelnate is an intramuscular injection that is administered at the time of or within 24 hours of a stressful event. Three vials must be mixed together in a 5-step process.

Phibro’s OmniGen-AF has been on the market for quite some time as a Prince Agri product. OmniGen-AF is a nutritional specialty product that improves white blood cell function in the face of stress. By improving immune function, health events should decline. Per label, “OmniGen-AF is recommended to be fed to dry and lactating cows at the rate of 56 grams per head per day.  It takes 45 to 60 days after the first feeding for OmniGen-AF to become fully effective in its role in supporting normal immune function.  It takes 5 to 7 days to lose the effect.”

Other products have the ability to stimulate immune function. Amplimune, formerly Immunoboost, by Bioniche Animal Health is labeled for IV use in calves between 1-5 days of age. Vitamins C and E injections have been used extensively. Multimin®90 is an injectable supplemental source of zinc, manganese, selenium and copper. Bo-Se and Mu-Se also provide selenium. Finally, do not forget about the impact calcium has on the immune system.

Nothing has a bigger impact on immune function than making management changes that reduce stress. However, when a failure in the system inevitably occurs, immunostimmulants provide an additional boost to the immune system.