Home' NZ Dairy Farmer : July 2010 Contents The Dairyman JULY 2010 57
Ketosis study reveals spring problem
ACONDITION outwardly hard to
detect threatens to cost New
Zealand dairy farmers thousands of
dollars in lost production, uterine infec-
tions and poor conception rates.
In a national first last spring, a study
across New Zealand on 57 farms revealed
17 per cent of sampled cows were experi-
encing Sub-Clinical Ketosis (SCK).
Further work this spring aims to deter-
mine just how debilitating that condition
is upon individual cow production, con-
ception rates and the cost it imposes on
SCK is by nature difficult to diagnose,
and is initiated by low energy levels in
dairy cows prior to and just after calving.
This causes the cow to mobilise her body
fat as an energy source, releasing ketones
into the blood stream.
At small levels the cow can cope with this,
but at higher levels the cow is unable to effi-
ciently metabolise the ketones, resulting in
depressed production, lowered fertility rates
and uterine infections.
Sponsored by Elanco Animal Health, the
study included 1600 cows from 57 farms in
Waikato, Southland and Canterbury. Up to
50 cows per farm were selected to sample in
early spring when SCK risk is greatest.
The prevalence of the condition in the
sample herds surprised the veterinary
researchers, given the ideal conditions many
farmers reported for calving in the 2009
spring, said Elanco's veterinary manager
"They were as close to ideal as you could
ask for, with low rainfall and cold, dry con-
ditions. However to still find 17 per cent of
cows affected gives pause for thought when
you consider what a more typical spring is
like, with greater stress and feed issues at
calving time than experienced that spring."
The ideal weather conditions were also
reflected in lower than usual vet call outs,
with some practices reporting a 50 per cent
decline in typical spring calving visits.
The trial also found that the herd members
most vulnerable to SCK were over seven
years old, or heifers.
Research in North America has revealed
some significant impacts of SCK on herd
productivity. This includes milk production
reduced by 2-3 litres per cow per day, first
service conception rates reduced by 20-50
per cent and uterine infection rates up to 3
times the average in affected herds.
Continuing the study this coming spring
will see data collected on the local losses
incurred through SCK, and put those losses
into dollars and cents.
Despite ketosis being well known as a post
calving problem, this study marks the first
time any extensive research has been con-
ducted on it in New Zealand.
Elanco's marketing manager Bill Hewitt
said the study itself included some cutting
edge technology that had made the trial
manageable and accurate across a large
sample size of cows.
Working with three big veterinary prac-
tices in the regions and using electronic
blood sampling equipment has made the
job far easier and less stressful for farmers,
researchers and cows at a busy stressful
time of year.
"It provides a quick and accurate record-
ing of ketone levels. The technician simply
takes a single drop of blood and when
placed on an electronic strip they have a
precise recording of the cow's ketone lev-
els within 10 seconds."
Good feed levels pre and post calving
have been the first line of defence for
avoiding ketosis. Elanco's long serving
rumen modifier Rumensin has a proven track
record in reducing the incidence of clinical
and sub-clinical ketosis.
Trials at Massey University showed keto-
sis risks were reduced by three times by
using Rumensin from the start of calving.
Using it pre-calving over the dry period
resulted in even greater benefits, bringing the
incidence rate down by 19 times.
Hewitt makes no secret about the value of
the trial results in supporting the role
Rumensin can play in reducing SCK.
However he is also adamant the informa-
tion will prove an invaluable starting point
for increasing farmer knowledge and under-
standing around the need for improved pre
and post calving nutrition. "We should keep
in mind too that the results from last spring
were in almost ideal conditions -- it is fair to
assume that in an average spring time over a
fifth of the nation's cows are suffering from
a condition that is insidious and debilitating."
The study involved 1600 cows from 57 farms in
Waikato, Southland and Canterbury.
Coccidiosis protection from the first feeding
Protects against coccidiosis until consumption
of dry feed containing coccidiostat is sufficient
to give protection at 3-4 weeks of age
Added vitamins aid tissue & bone development
and boosts immunity
Aids rumen development to improve forage
utilisation at weaning
Mixes easily with whole milk or milk replacer
which doesn't contain a coccidiostat
Calf Vigor® is registered pursuant to the ACVM Act A9262.
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