What is Ketosis?
Ketosis is an elevated level of ketones in the blood associated with a negative energy balance that occurs in most cows during the early stages of their lactation (2-6 weeks into lactation, most cows get ketosis around week 3 after freshening) and occasionally mid-late lactation cows.
What to look for with ketosis:
Signs of ketosis include a decreased intake of dry matter, loss of body condition, decreased milk production, the cow acting nervous, and breath that smells sickly sweet like acetone.
Why is ketosis bad?
Ketosis can kill a cow by essentially poisoning her body if not treated. Less dramatic problems include long-term decreased production, unhealthy quality of milk, inability to maintain and store vital nutrients to her body for long term health, and can cause reproductive issues. Ketosis can create fatty liver syndrome which causes a number of problems such as decreased fertility, decreased liver function, and sometimes death.
Testing for ketosis:
To know if your cow has ketosis, you can buy Ketostix strips. Collect a small sample of urine into a sterile cup and dip a strip into the urine. Read package directions to determine if your cow tests positive for ketosis. A blood test can also be done and is more accurate, but the strips provide a quick easy test. If a cow tests positive, ask your vet about getting a milk test done, as a positive test in the milk would indicate enough problem to warrant treatment.
An elevated temperature would indicate another problem, as ketosis alone should not change body temperature.
What causes ketosis?
- Consumption of silage that contains butyric acid can cross the rumen wall to the liver.
- Production of ketones in the liver. Milk production requires a large amount of glucose. By the second day after calving, a cow’s requirement of glucose doubles. Without an adequate supply, the body takes energy reserves from stored fat and produces ketones which are used in place of the glucose. Ketones should not be present for very long in a healthy cow, as she should be able to eat enough food, if high quality, to maintain her body and provide for lactating. A cow that has high levels of ketones for a long period is considered “ketotic” and must be treated to prevent damage.
- Overweight cows at time of calving. Healthy body condition score of 3.25-3.75 should be maintained from time of dry off to time of calving.
How to prevent ketosis:
- Encourage dry matter intake. Fermentation of dry matter in the rumen helps produce the fatty acid proprionate, which is essential to healthy processing of glucose for energy requirements. Around a week before calving, most cows reduce the amount of food they are eating. Therefore, the food they DO eat needs to be very high quality. High in protein, highly palatable, and NO moldy, musty, rank food.
- Consider adding soaked beet pulp to the cow’s grain ration. The fiber helps rumen digestability.
- Avoid stress from transitions. A cow should be close to her full milk cow ration by one week before calving. Make time (around 3 weeks) to transition hays and grain so that the cow is not suddenly confronted with something new and unusual.
- A normal pre-fresh cow will consume about 1.75% of body weight per day. That is around 15-20 pounds of dry matter for a mid-sized cow. An increase in grain at this time can help manage the balance needed for increased intake, but be sure to maintain a level of hay feeding for rumen health and overall digestibility.
- Balance dry matter intake with energy needs (17-18 Mcal/day for close-up cows and 25-35 Mcal/day for postpartum cows)
- Always have available easily accessable fresh water.
- Provide an area where the dry cow/fresh cow can eat without having to compete for her food. Always provide feed and change the selection often to encourage palate.
- Supplement Vitamin E at 1000-4000 IU per day in the days before calving and 800 IU postpartum.
- Treat milk fever immediately if signs are seen. IV CMPK as necessary.
- Dextrose, IV, one full bottle. A temporary energy source to encourage the cow to start eating and drinking. Possibly a IV bottle of CMPK.
- Slow acting CMPK boluses & Rumen-Start capsules or Fastrack probiotic pack.
- Adding niacin, glycerin, calcium/sodium proprionate or propylene glycol to cow’s diet (consult your vet for instructions).
Treating for ketosis can also help prevent other issues surrounding calving time:
- Displaced Abomasum (DA) can be prevented with proper dry cow maintainence feeding.
- In addition, a healthy dry cow will more likely calve easily,
- expel placenta in a timely manner,
- avoid bacterial infection and swelling of the uterus (metritis) and other immune issues,
- breed back on schedule,
- have a steady increase in milk production,
- reduce somatic cell count over the duration of the lactation,
- reduce incidences of mastitis.
Rena’s Drench: http://familycow.proboards.com/thread/28171
Steve Maske. “How nutrition can affect prepartum and postpartum cows.” February 8, 2011. Issue 3. Progressive Dairyman, 93-95.
David L. Prentice. “Are your cows ketotic?” February 8, 2011. Issue 3. Progressive Dairyman, 87-89.
Mark J. Thomas, DVM. “New tools to help us spot ketosis.” http://www.hoards.com/E_animalhealth/ah16
Mary Beth de Ondarza, Ph. D., “Ketosis and Fatty Liver.” http://www.farme.com/assets/articles/KETONEweb.htm