Monitoring cows for milk fever ahead of calving


Milk fever is an issue that is commonly seen on dairy farms during the calving period and this can often results in a ‘down cow’.
The 2023 calving season, often brings rise to issues on farms, is well underway on farms across the country.
It is unlikely for a farmer to make it through the calving season without any issue, such as difficult calving, sick cows or sick calves.
Many issue around calving or sick cows will often occur in the late calvers so it is important to continually monitor cows that have yet to calve.

A issue commonly seen on many dairy farms can be cows getting milk fever shortly before or after calving.
Unfortunately, in many cases this results in a ‘down cow’, and more often than not this happens in an area that is not ideal for treatment – such as the slates or collecting yard.

Milk fever can occur a number of days either side of calving and is caused by a reduced blood calcium level

Although it can happen before calving is it more often seen after calving when the demand for calcium is high for milk production and it exceeds the body’s ability to mobilise calcium.
Left untreated, it can result in death, but generally after treatment cows are quick to recover.

Milk fever
Ensuring that cows are in the correct mineral status plays an important role in preventing issues such as milk fever around calving.
But correct mineral status only gets you so far; some cows are more susceptible to developing issues at calving.
These include cows such as older cows, cows that are not in the correct body condition score (BCS), and late calvers.

For example, cows that are over-conditioned or in a BCS that is too high are four times more likely to develop milk fever.
The problem with milk fever and other metabolic disorders is they act as a gateway disease. Cows that develop milk fever are likely to develop mastitis later in lactation – so cases should be avoided where possible.

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