A multi-faceted approach to reducing ketosis has resulted in less displaced abomasums (DAs), better cow longevity and a reduced calving interval at Priddbwll Farm, Oswestry.
When James Evans returned home in 2012, he was faced with a calving interval of 430-440 days and about two DAs a month.
Heat detection rates were low meaning a lot of cows were not being served until more than 100 days in-milk.
These cows were getting fat, predisposing them to ketosis.
Ketosis occurs when a cow goes into extreme negative energy balance around calving and is forced to mobilise body tissue.
This leads to higher than acceptable ketone levels in the blood.
These cows are then predisposed to post-calving health issues and poor fertility.
Most of the DAs Mr Evans was experiencing were occurring in clinically ketotic cows, while blood testing identified underlying herd level subclinical ketosis.
With the herd moving to three times-a-day milking and undergoing gradual herd expansion, he realised problems needed to be addressed.
Since then, only high fertility bulls have been used and the team has focused on heat detection.
Feeding consistency has also been a key focus.
This has included chopping straw so it is better incorporated into the dry cow diet.
This has eliminated sorting and improved dry matter intakes, which helps lower ketosis risk.
Monensin boluses have been targeted towards at-risk sick, old, fat or twin-bearing cows, in consultation with the farm’s vet and the boluses help cows access more energy from every mouthful of feed.
Initially, monensin boluses were targeted at 65 per cent of cows, but as fertility and body condition has improved, this has been reduced to 35 per cent.
It is still an important part of the preventative strategy on the farm in at risk animals Mr Evans says: “You have to get all the other factors right, such as rationing, fertility, consistency of day-to-day feeding and husbandry.
It will not fix bad management.”
Calving interval has since dropped to 385 days, while the 600-cow herd now yields 12,200 litres/cow/year.
Body condition is also more consistent.
Mr Evans says: “We do not have a problem with DAs any more.
We have had one DA in the last four months.
We are seeing improved cow longevity and we are getting that extra lactation and calf.”
References: Raboisson et al, 2015 and Walsh R.B. et al, 2007.
Elanco currently analyses milk recording data from about 200 herds, representing 33,500 cows across England, Scotland and Wales. Analysing individual cow milk fat to protein ratio gives an indication of whether an animal may be affected by ketosis. A ratio of >1.4 suggests excess body fat may be being mobilised. The problem can then be investigated.
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