Invited review: Selective use of antimicrobials in dairy cattle at drying-off

Kayley D. McCubbin, Ellen de Jong, Theo J.G.M. Lam, David F. Kelton, John R. Middleton, Scott McDougall, Sarne De Vliegher, Sandra Godden, Päivi J. Rajala-Schultz, Sam Rowe, David C. Speksnijder, John P. Kastelic, Herman W. Barkema

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Administering intramammary antimicrobials to all mammary quarters of dairy cows at drying-off [i.e., blanket dry cow therapy (BDCT)] has been a mainstay of mastitis prevention and control. However, as udder health has considerably improved over recent decades with reductions in intramammary infection prevalence at drying-off and the introduction of teat sealants, BDCT may no longer be necessary on all dairy farms, thereby supporting antimicrobial stewardship efforts. This narrative review summarizes available literature regarding current dry cow therapy practices and associated impacts of selective dry cow therapy (SDCT) on udder health, milk production, economics, antimicrobial use, and antimicrobial resistance. Various methods to identify infections at drying-off that could benefit from antimicrobial treatment are described for selecting cows or mammary quarters for treatment, including utilizing somatic cell count thresholds, pathogen identification, previous clinical mastitis history, or a combination of criteria. Selection methods may be enacted at the herd, cow, or quarter levels. Producers' and veterinarians' motivations for antimicrobial use are discussed. Based on review findings, SDCT can be adopted without negative consequences for udder health and milk production, and concurrent teat sealant use is recommended, especially in udder quarters receiving no intramammary antimicrobials. Furthermore, herd selection should be considered for SDCT implementation in addition to cow or quarter selection, as BDCT may still be temporarily necessary in some herds for optimal mastitis control. Costs and benefits of SDCT vary among herds, whereas impacts on antimicrobial resistance remain unclear. In summary, SDCT is a viable management option for maintaining udder health and milk production while improving antimicrobial stewardship in the dairy industry.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7161-7189
Number of pages29
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported by the Industrial Research Chair in Infectious Diseases of Dairy Cattle, funded by Canada's Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) Industrial Research Chair Program (Ottawa, ON, Canada), with industry contributions from Alberta Milk (Edmonton, AB, Canada), the Dairy Farmers of Canada (Ottawa, ON, Canada), WestGen Endowment Fund (Milner, BC, Canada), the BC Dairy Association (Burnaby, BC, Canada), Canadian Dairy Network (Guelph, ON, Canada), Lactanet (Guelph, ON, Canada), SaskMilk (Regina, SK, Canada), Dairy Farmers of Manitoba (Winnipeg, MB, Canada), and MSD Animal Health (Boxmeer, The Netherlands). The first author was supported by an NSERC CREATE in Milk Quality graduate student scholarship from the Canadian Bovine Mastitis and Milk Quality Research Network (Saint-Hyacinthe, QC, Canada), the Workforce Development Initiative Graduate Scholarship from the Canadian Dairy Network (Ottawa, ON, Canada), and an NSERC Alexander Graham Bell Canada Graduate Scholarship (Ottawa, ON, Canada). The authors have not stated any conflicts of interest.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 American Dairy Science Association


  • antimicrobial stewardship
  • dairy cow
  • dry cow therapy
  • mastitis


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