When a dairy cow develops a disease, producers take steps to get her well. Unfortunately, the common task of moving a sick cow to the hospital pen may be doing more harm than good.

Limit hospital pen moves to help protect dairy wellness“We think about a hospital as a place to get well, but that isn’t necessarily the case,” said Mike Lormore, veterinarian and director of dairy technical services at Zoetis. “Hospital pens can be a risky place, especially for fresh cows, and this can affect the entire dairy. Producers need to understand the risks of managing hospital pens and work to avoid unnecessary pen moves.”

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that one in every 20 in-patients has an infection related to hospital care. Similarly, dairy hospital pens can be risky environments, especially for fresh cows that may have depressed immune systems, increasing their likelihood of contracting a new infection.

“With proper treatment and care, a dairy cow has a good chance of recovering from an initial disease incident,” Lormore said. “However, if a cow gets a second disease, especially Salmonellosis or Mycoplasma mastitis, it’s much more likely that cow will not recover to previous production and health. Additionally, she is at great risk of early removal from the herd.”

The prevalence of Salmonella has been on the rise across U.S. dairies. In a hospital pen, the risk is even greater. A cow is 11 times more likely to contract the bacteria in a hospital pen than anywhere else on the dairy.