Administration of antibiotics to ewes at the beginning of the dry- period
The objective of the present paper is to review the significance of administration of antibiotics at the end of a lactation period/beginning of the dry-period in ewes. During the stage of active involution, there is an increased risk of new mastitis cases and recrudescence of subclinical infections that had occurred during the previous lactation period. The main pathogens involved in the so-called dry-period mastitis' are coagulase-negative staphylococci. The principle of antibiotic administration at the end of a lactation period involves the intramammary infusion of a preparation to both mammary glands of ewes in the flock. Although a variety of products is licensed for administration in ewes, preferably the product for administration should be selected on the results of susceptibility testing of bacteria to be isolated from samples from ewes in the flock. In many clinical studies from around the world, performed in dairy- or mutton-production flocks, administration of antimicrobial agents at the end of a lactation period has been found beneficial in curing intramammary infections present at cessation of a lactation period, as well as in minimising the risk for intramammary infections during the dry-period. In dairy flocks, there are also benefits from increase in milk yield and decrease flock bulk milk mean somatic cell counts during the subsequent lactation period. Antibiotic administration at drying-off may be performed to all animals in a flock (complete') or only to those considered to be infected (selective'). In all cases, after administration of the antibiotic, definite and complete cessation of the lactation period is essential for success of the procedure. Moreover, maintenance of the prescribed withdrawal periods is essential to safeguard public health. The procedure should always be applied as part of a strategic udder health management plan in a flock; implementation improves the welfare of animals and affords significant financial benefits to the farmer. A mastitis prevention scheme during lactation will minimise the incidence of the disease; effective treatment of cases of the disease during lactation will decrease the bacterial populations in the flock and limit risk of infection of other animals. Administration of antibiotics at the end of a lactation period will complement the above procedures and will contribute to improved mammary health for the forthcoming lactation period.