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Research has shown 30% of UK dairy cows have subclinical ketosis, which can lead to other metabolic and reproductive disorders

 

In a recent audit of UK dairy herds, 30% of newly calved cows were found to be in a state of subclinical or ‘hidden’ ketosis. These cows were not only more likely to develop clinical ketosis, but also at greater risk of clinical cases of other metabolic and reproductive disorders such as retained placenta, displaced abomasum and milk fever.

These results are part of a pan-European audit commissioned by Elanco to provide a snapshot of the prevalence of ketosis, and investigate the knock-on effects on animal health and performance.

Between July 2011 and January 2012, 2489 cows in 74 herds were tested across five European countries –Germany, Italy, France, UK and The Netherlands. Ketosis was determined by measuring beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHBA) levels in the milk of cows which had calved seven to 21 days previously using the cowside diagnostic Keto-Test. When BHBA levels in the milk exceeded 100μmol/litre, a positive diagnosis was confirmed.

In theUKfarm audits, 763 cows from 15 dairy herds were tested. The prevalence of hidden ketosis averaged 30%, with levels in individual herds varying from 10% to 60%.

Elanco’s technical consultant Mike Steele explains: “Ketosis occurs in cows that have a poor adaptive response to negative energy balance. If the rate of fat mobilisation is too fast for the cow’s liver to oxidise it to energy, ketones such as BHBA build up in the blood. When blood BHBA levels exceed 1000-1400μmol/litre, it results in subclinical ketosis.

“The health and performance consequences of subclinical - or ‘hidden’ - ketosis are wide-ranging. Cows in the study were also observed during the first 35 days of lactation, not only to see if clinical ketosis developed, but also to monitor for cases of other clinical diseases resulting from the high levels of ketone bodies.”

The European audit revealed that cows that tested positive with the Keto-Test were: 1.7 times more likely to have had a difficult calving; 2.2 times more likely to have had a retained placenta (RFM); 1.8 times more likely to have had milk fever; 4.5 times more likely gastro-intestinal distress; 2.3 times more likely to get mastitis; 2.7 times more likely to get a displaced abomasum; 11.5 times more likely to get clinical ketosis; and there was also a slight but significant trend to an increased susceptibility to metritis.

Mike Steele adds: “Clinical ketosis was diagnosed in one percent of the cows surveyed in the main audit. This is in line with previous findings. It highlights that whilst clinical cases of ketosis are rare, these cases are just ‘the tip of the iceberg’ and a much larger number of animals will be experiencing subclinical levels of ketosis. These may develop into clinical ketosis and/or other clinical disease, as the survey demonstrated.”

“Herd level monitoring for ketosis on an ongoing basis is highly recommended: it signals when cows are slipping into negative energy balance to the extent that ketosis develops, which at subclinical levels depresses herd health, fertility and performance. In herds where more than 25% of cows test positive for ketosis using Keto-Test, management and feeding policies during the transition period should be reviewed.

“With Elanco’s Keto-Test, a cow-side milk testing kit, farmers can be more proactive in protecting their herds from the detrimental impact of ketosis,” concludes Mike Steele.

 

The full results of Elanco Farm Audit 2011

Country

Number of cows tested

Number of herds

Prevalence of clinical ketosis

Prevalence of hidden ketosis

Range of hidden ketosis

Time of audit

Netherlands

460

13

0.0%

38%

5-67%

Sept-Dec 2011

Italy

485

14

0.5%

29%

0-46%

Aug 2011-Jan 2012

UK

763

15

0.5%

30%

10-60%

July-Dec 2011

Germany

411

16

2.4%

45%

16-72%

July 2011-Feb 2012

France

370

16

0.5%

58%

13-91%

July 2011-Feb 2012

 

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