Issue of the Week (March 31-April 6): Ketosis

What’s the issue?

In many high-producing herds, ketosis may occur fairly early in lactation, often during the first two weeks after calving.  Today’s cows often are producing so much milk early in lactation that they cannot eat enough to meet their energy needs; therefore, they breakdown stored body fat for energy at a fast rate and as a result produce too many ketones.  Ketones make cows feel sick and lower their feed intake.

Cows have always had to utilize fat stores in early lactation to meet their energy needs. However, two reasons cause the extreme situation that exists today.

  1. The cows produce more milk earlier in lactation
  2. They increase in production faster. They still peak in lactation at almost the same time as they always have, but peak much higher milk production levels.

In very high producing herds (30,000+ lb. RHA), even with good control of cow body condition and good ration formulation, high rates of ketosis are often still found.

What’s the impact?

  • Loss of milk production, either because of reduced milk output and/or possibly having to dump treated cow’s milk may occur.
  • Cows that experience ketosis are at much greater risk of getting an LDA which usually requires either surgery or some sort of mechanical fixation (roll and stitch or toggle) to correct.
  • Ketosis and LDA’s increases the risk that the cow will be a reproductive failure (not get pregnant again) and increases her risk of culling greatly as well.
  • Increased costs for medication (e.g., dextrose, cortisones, B-vitamins, propylene glycol, etc.), labor to treat sick cows and other costs can be incurred by the producer resulting from this condition.

ANIMART Solutions:

  • Talk with your nutritionist.  This disease is primarily nutritional in nature, and therefore most of the solution lies in correcting the diet, often times in the dry and close-up periods, but can go back even to late lactation; the fresh cow ration may also be a culprit.
  • Of primary importance is restricting energy intake for far-off dry and close-up cows as research has indicated that excess energy during these periods have been associated with increased rates of ketosis.
  • During periods of high clinical ketosis incidence, products such as propylene glycol can be utilized to increase the energy intake (this product can be directly converted to glucose by the cow’s liver) and can reduce stored fat breakdown, thereby decreasing ketones.
  • Calcium propionate has also been used for this purpose with some success.
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