Ketosis, also known as subclinical milk fever, is a metabolic disorder in dairy cows in which blood ketone levels are elevated as a result of a disturbed energy balance. Ketosis is one of the main causes of cow shedding on a dairy farm. This is because it directly affects milk production, udder health, claw health and fertility of newly milked cows. One of these factors is often given as the reason for culling, but ketosis is often at the root of it.
How does ketosis occur in cows?
Ketosis occurs as a result of energy imbalance during the transition period from lactation to dry to lactation. During this period, cows experience a change in their nutritional needs and metabolism, which can lead to problems with the cow's energy balance. Simply put, energy demand exceeds energy intake. Often the supply is there, but the absorption and conversion of energy is not efficient enough. The lack of energy greatly reduces the glucogenic supply in the liver. In response, the body starts to break down fats as an alternative energy source. One product of this is ketone bodies, which are discharged through milk and urine, among other things. An acetone odour is also noticeable in ketotic cows, although not every person can smell this. When the production of ketones exceeds the body's capacity to process them, they accumulate in the blood and ketosis occurs.
As a result, milk fat rises in newly-milked cows, as the body expels ketones through milk or urine. The rise in milk fat is often seen as something positive, but in fresh cows, it is often the result of ketosis. This leaves milk quantity and milk protein behind. It is therefore better to look at grams of milk protein rather than milk fat in the 0-60-day group.
Prevention of ketosis
Preventing ketosis in cows requires a good management approach during the transition period from lactation to dry-off to lactation. Provide a well-balanced dry-off ration that maintains intake and keeps energy metabolism active.
A successful dry-off is half the battle. The other half starts immediately after calving. The cow then needs to take in an ample amount of glucogenic energy. Here, the dry matter intake and energy density per kilogram of dry matter are very important. In practice, this means switching to the lactating ration immediately after calving, starting to build up concentrate immediately and, above all, monitoring rumen filling. If necessary, work with a vet to monitor cow health and detect any health problems early.
Did you know? The after-effects of ketosis can last up to 6 weeks. A newly-milked cow can suffer from ketosis after only a few days, but also much later. As a result, fertility can be poor for up to 100 days after calving.
We would be happy to advise you on an effective approach to ketosis in cows. Would you like to know more about our concepts or make an appointment with our specialists to see if this is the solution for your farm? Feel free to look further on our website or contact us without obligation.