Mastitis and fertility – the financial impact of meloxicam treatment investigated

The impact of clinical mastitis on dairy cows is well understood, with the effect on fertility now being widely acknowledged, thanks to recent large scale studies. More recent work conducted by Wageningen University in the Netherlands and funded by Boehringer Ingelheim set out to examine whether a positive economic output could be obtained. The study would aim to arrive at the financial result by mitigating the negative effects of mastitis with an NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory, explains Dr Elke Abbeloos from the company. The results of this work were presented at the NMC (National Mastitis Conference) conference in Florida, on January 30th 2017.

“Previously, a large field study found that treating clinical mastitis cases with meloxicam (Metacam®) alongside standard antimicrobial therapy in the first 120 days of lactation, improved conception rate from 21% to 31%,” she says. (McDougall et al., 2016)

However, the question of the impact of these findings on a herd’s financial performance has, to-date, remained unanswered.

“Farmers were repeatedly asking whether the administration of Metacam® eventually shows a return on investment through better fertility and, hence, higher production,” Dr Abbeloos says. “And although Boehringer Ingelheim thinks the reduction of pain in mastitis is an important feature of the dual treatment approach, we understand farmer concerns around reduced production costs given the difficult market conditions.”

To investigate the cost impact and potential benefit of administering meloxicam alongside traditional antimicrobial therapy, a further study was developed.

“By building a comprehensive simulation model, the lactation curve of dairy cows was simulated in weekly steps. To be as accurate as possible, all relevant biological events were accounted for, including milk production, the reproductive cycle and culling decisions by the farmer being represented,” Dr Abbeloos says.

Once the model was built, it was straightforward to scale up the data and show what would happen for a random selection of 50,000 dairy cows, without the need to observe them in real-life. For each cow, the cash flow and respective production costs were calculated and, by tweaking one parameter in the model, the economic impact of this parameter can thus be identified.

“In our model, each cow “developed” a clinical case of mastitis within the first 120 days of lactation, with the resultant milk production losses and effect on conception rate simulated too,” Dr Abbeloos explains.

“The study then modelled two different treatment scenarios, one featuring the use of meloxicam and the other without; the associated conception rates were 31% and 21%, respectively as per the original McDougall work,” she adds.

The technical output data for the herd was collected and the net cash flow impact was estimated for each scenario, with the difference between the two treatment models being the net economic benefit of treating with meloxicam

“The resulting data demonstrated on average a €42 difference between the two scenarios, with the meloxicam treatment delivering an improved net cash flow, despite higher treatment costs,” explains Dr Abbeloos.

A significant amount of this improved cash flow came from reduced insemination costs (€80 versus €103) as well as reduced replacement costs, as a result of lower culling rates (€78 versus €157).

“This economic benefit remained positive over a wide range of technical and economic inputs, demonstrating that the use of meloxicam is likely to be cost effective across many production systems,” Dr Abbeloos concludes.

 Meloxicam treatmentNo meloxicam treatmentNEB
Milk production€2,520 (€1,967 – €3,194)€2,562 (€1,965 – €3,294)-€42 (€3 – -€103)
Feed intake-€931 (-€1,067 – -€812)-€935 (-€1,075 – -€810)€3 (€9 – -€3)
AI-€80 (-€207 – -€29)-€103 (-€243 – -€30)€24 (€37 – €1)
Calving-€42 (-€58 – €0)-€35 (-€56 – €0)-€7 (-€1 – €0)
CM treatment-€46 (-€56 – -€34)-€32 (-€41 – -€23)-€14 (-€11- -€16)
Replacement-€78 (-€699 – €0)-€157 (-€824 – €0)€79 (€125 – €0)
Net cash flow€1,343 (€957 – €1,796)€1300 (€947 – €1,768)€42 (€10 – €28)

Table 1. Economic output of the two treatment scenarios in the base model, a scenario with the additional treatment of meloxicam and one without the addition of meloxicam expressed in € per case of clinical mastitis per year, the net economic benefit was € 42 per case of clinical mastitis per year.

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