All farmers recognise fat cows are prone to ‘melting away’ post-calving and developing ketosis, but there are a multitude of other at risk cows which could be going under the radar.
The negative energy balance around calving is a time of great risk to production, fertility and health. Kate Heller, of Elanco, says sick, old, fat or twin-bearing (SOFT) cows are the main at-risk group.
She says: “These at-risk groups will have decreased dry matter intakes pre-calving.
This will increase the risk of ketosis from less available energy, meaning they have to break down more body fat to meet this energy gap.”
Post-calving, these at-risk cows will struggle to increase dry matter intake.
In addition, the ketones released further suppresses their appetite.
This ketosis causes further loss of body condition score and associated milk, fertility and health consequences.
But at-risk animals do not end there. There are many more at-risk groups you might identify on your farm, for example, thin cows, heifers and those with long dry periods.
As such, Kate urges farmers to identify these potentially problematic individuals three weeks pre-calving and speak to their vet about how best to manage them.
This could mean using a preventative bolus to help boost energy.
In the long-term, management strategies should be put in place to reduce the number of at-risk cows.
Common areas to look at include feed and water access and lying space. However, all farms will have outliers three weeks pre-calving that would benefit from intervention.
For more information on how to combat Ketosis, visit the Elanco Hub
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.
Visit the Ketosis State of the Nation Hub at FGinsight.com/KetosisSOTN
to find out what the ketosis incidence is in your region and view resources to help you manage the problem
Get involved with #KetosisSOTN
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