If you see cases of milk fever, metritis, mastitis, ketosis or displaced abomasum soon after calving, it might be time to review how you treat fresh calvers. For every clinical milk fever you see, there are typically ten other cows with subclinical hypocalcaemia. This milder calcium deficit does not cause clinical milk fever, but does increase the risk of other diseases.
The cows most at risk of hypocalcaemia are high yielders, Channel-Islanders, older and over-conditioned ones, and those that had milk fever, ketosis, metritis or retained placenta in the last lactation. They should be singled out for special treatment. Give them at least 100g of oral calcium. The simplest way is to use drenches or boluses. Three boluses, one at the first sign of calving, one afterwards and one 12–15 hours later, should provide sufficient calcium.
Giving drenches or boluses can involve quite a lot of handling. You may want to consider getting a pump and pump-drenching fresh calvers. It may take longer than giving a bolus, but you handle the cow only once. The advantage is that you can deliver a large dose of calcium, plus glucogenic energy to reduce the risk of ketosis, and rehydrate the cow, all in one go. Dehydrated cows have a reduced appetite, so rehydration is useful to further reduce the risk of milk fever and ketosis. There are various formulae for pumping. We recommend SELEKT Fresh Cow 500, because it provides more calcium and glucogenic energy than any of the others.
Cows that don’t take the drink when offered should be pumped. If you want to know more about which cows to treat, ask one of the vets for more advice.