IN all areas of medicine, the appropriate use of antimicrobial agents has become a subject of much interest and debate. Concerns over the misuse of antibiotics centre on the possible build up of bacterial resistance and a fear of residues entering the food chain. The veterinary surgeon plays a pivotal role in the way in which antibacterial agents are used on the dairy farms under his/her care and dry cow therapy is probably the most commonly prescribed antibiotic product, with almost 4 tonnes of active ingredients being used in the year 2000. As with all medicines, it is essential that dry cow therapy is prescribed on a rational basis. The aim of this two-part article is to describe current knowledge on udder health in the dry period and to use this to develop a logical approach to prescribing dry cow therapy. Part 2, which will be published in the next issue, will provide guidance on product selection.
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