Alongside mastitis and lameness, fertility represents a perennial challenge for all dairy farmers and is an area where massive amounts of performance (which can easily be turned into pounds) can be lost.
While the link between milk fever and poor fertility performance may not be at the forefront of most producers’ minds, understanding the relationship between the two, and what can be done to minimise the threat of milk fever, can have a real and positive impact on fertility.
Bill May of Lambert Leonard and May in Shropshire says while a single clinical case of milk fever may cost around £200, the full impact of subclinical or clinical hypocalcaemia (milk fever) on health and fertility performance is more significant – see chart. Continue reading
Full blown clinical milk fever is a very obvious syndrome which everyone can identify in freshly calved cows, and experts claim it has an incidence rate of around 5-10%. However, as with many production diseases, clinical cases are often the tip of the iceberg indicating a more deepseated imbalance within dry cows in the herd, and perhaps more specifically, transition cows.
The prevalence of sub-clinical hypocalcaemia (milk fever where the blood calcium is low but the cow is not clinically affected) in the transition cow is effectively unknown. Worryingly, one study in 2006 found that 47% of all cows in their second lactation or greater had varying degrees of sub-clinical milk fever which, in some cases, was severe enough to alter physiological and immune functions1. Continue reading
Over the next four months we will be looking at milk fever in more detail and examining the impact it can have on animal health and productivity. Here, in the first of the four articles, Richard Cooper, a veterinary surgeon from the Evidence Based Veterinary Consultancy, examines some of the popular misconceptions about this very costly, yet preventable disease.
There are very few farms which can claim they have never seen a case of milk fever (hypocalcaemia). While clinical cases of milk fever are the ones we tend to remember, from a cost and health perspective these only represent ‘the tip of the iceberg’. Subclinical milk fever is an extremely common finding on farms and the losses it brings in terms of production, reduced fertility and other metabolic disease should not be underestimated. Continue reading
Hypocalcaemia is the most important nutritional disorder affecting dairy cows and can be controlled by good transition cow management and nutrition.
However, clinical milk fever is reported to affect 4-9% of UK dairy cows and this is only the tip of the iceberg1. Studies show the subclinical form could affect as many as 39% of dairy cows2.
Factors which put a cow at risk of milk fever include: