The Hidden Danger of Subclinical Ketosis

Taking control of subclinical ketosis can be tricky. Find out how to overcome the issue

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Taking control of subclinical ketosis can be tricky. After all, its very nature as a low-level, rumbling problem makes it hard to spot and, as a result, difficult to both prevent and treat. But there are ways to overcome the issue and the first of those is to ensure cows are at as low risk of subclinical ketosis as possible – prevention is better than cure.

Ketosis is caused by cows being unable to match energy intake to their energy output, which surges in the immediate post-calving period. The first step in any prevention plan, must be to speak to your vet and nutritionist about appropriate diets in the transition period. Such an approach will help you more effectively balance cow intakes with requirements and will be a useful first step in combatting the problem. Additionally, ensuring cows have sufficient feed space and aren’t being bullied at the feed rail will mean they are able to maximise intakes as much as possible.

When considering which cows will be at risk, there are several factors to take into account. The first is body condition score, with over-conditioned cows at a BCS of 3.5 or higher at particular risk. Those animals that suffered from diseases linked to negative energy balance (retained placenta, ketosis, displaced abomasum, metritis) in the previous lactation also have a higher risk of developing ketosis, as do older cows (3rd lactation and above).

Subclinical ketosis is most often a problem in the first two weeks post calving, making careful monitoring of fresh cows a key part of the management plan to combat the problem. A simple way to monitor cows post-calving is to use Elanco’s Keto-TestTM to check milk samples of cows in the first three weeks after calving. This quick, cow-side test gives a rapid indication of whether subclinical ketosis is an issue and allows action to be taken quickly to help cows overcome any problems.

With subclinical ketosis causing a wide range of problems (including delays in returning to heat, resulting in an increased time to first service and potentially an increased calving interval) an early ‘heads up’ could be extremely valuable. Cows with subclinical ketosis tend to be predisposed to ovarian cysts, as well as being more likely to suffer with metritis and mastitis. Importantly, subclinical ketosis sufferers are also more at risk of developing a displaced abomasum, further impacting milk yields and overall cow health, increasing the economic impact of the condition.

Prevention is always better than cure. Identifying at-risk cows in the dry period, and dealing swiftly with any cases identified post-calving, can limit both yield losses and the impact from the secondary issues outlined above. Kexxtone can be given to at-risk cows before calving to reduce their chances of developing ketosis afterwards.

Have a chat with your vet next time they are on farm or call the practice on 01332 294929 to discuss ketosis.

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