Ketosis in Dairy Cows - a Worsening Problem

Ketosis is a metabolic disease which usually occurs in cows in early lactation.

Ketosis is a metabolic disease which usually occurs in cows in early lactation. At this time the cow's appetite is depressed after calving and energy intake cannot meet the increasing demand of the rising milk yield. This period of 'negative energy balance' is normal in all newly calved cows but it is the level at which this happens that is important.

To meet energy requirements, the cow loses weight by mobilizing back fat which is then transported (as NEFAs) to the liver and broken down to release energy. During periods of high energy demand the liver cannot fully utilize the fat and metabolites known as ketones, such as acetone and beta-hydroxybutyrate, are produced. If too much weight is lost, these ketones overflow into the blood resulting in a further depression of appetite and subsequently reduced milk yield.

Typically, cows will lose 0.5 in body condition score from calving to service but many lose more than that. Fat cows already have lower dry matter intakes post calving and so their body condition score drops even more, taking them to the point of ketosis. Cows that have been dry for a long period of time or cows that have some sort of metabolic disease during calving, or dystocia, are also more susceptible to ketosis.

Ketosis is a worsening problem in UK dairy cattle, with approximately 30% having 'hidden ketosis'. It is commonly characterized by anorexia, depression and reduced productivity, lower milk yields and poorer fertility. Even when at sub clinical level, cows are at higher risk of suffering a wide range of metabolic and reproductive diseases which can further reduce income and add extra cost. The direct costs of ketosis include the input by the vet and herdsperson, drugs, discarded milk and reduced yield. Longer term problems are extended calving intervals, higher cases of cystic ovaries, LDAs, retained foetal membranes and metritis.

Pro-Keto is a new complementary dietetic feed from the Farm-O-San range aimed at reducing the risk of ketosis and was specifically developed to support the energy demands of the high yielding cow. It is based on propylene glycol so the energy source is immediately available as 'glycogen energy' which does not require processing in the liver in order to assist in returning the cow to positive energy balance. It is flavoured to maximize palatability to achieve the essential daily intake.

Key vitamins and minerals fortify Farm-O-San Pro-Keto to support daily requirements and energy metabolism. These include choline to support liver metabolism of fat, vitamin B12 and niacin to support the energy metabolism of the cow while under stress of early lactation, vitamin E and selenium as key cellular anti-oxidants, and zinc to support keratin production, particularly in the hoof.

Pro-Keto should be fed during the last few weeks of the drying off period and for the first 3 to 6 weeks of early lactation. 100–125ml should be administered twice daily and can be top dressed, incorporated into the mixed ration, fed through Robots or in the PropyDos system.

Mark Partridge, who runs a dairy farm in Dorset, had been using straight propylene glycol through his Robot parlor, but felt that due to the bitter taste the cows were not consuming as much compound as desired. He then switched to Pro-Keto to see if he could rectify this problem and noticed significant differences from using straight propylene glycol.

"Where the cows previously had tried to avoid the propylene glycol, using Pro-Keto eradicated the problem, and the cows were not trying to sort the feed when visiting the parlour" Mark says, "I feel that the increased palatability of Pro-Keto due to the inclusion of flavouring helped intakes to increase on each visit the cows made."

"Also, with the inclusion of the value-added ingredients within the product, this can only serve to assist the animals through what is a crucial time during early lactation, where ketosis risk is optimal".

Further information can be obtained from the Trouw Nutrition GB technical department on 01335 341102, or contact our Farm-O-San Team directly to speak to us about your requirements.