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New device measures ketosis prevalence in dairy herds

Kelli Boylen Published on 04 February 2015

Research has shown that ketosis affects 40 to 60 percent of dairy cows, with an average cost of $289 per case. Now, dairy producers have a new management tool available to estimate herd-level ketosis prevalence using their monthly DHI test-day milk samples.

AgSource Cooperative Services introduced KetoMonitor on Jan. 28. Dr. Heather White, assistant professor of nutritional physiology in the department of dairy science at University of Wisconsin – Madison, presented information on the product at the Cooperative Resources International (CRI) annual meeting.

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The monitor estimates herd ketosis prevalence on the day of the milk test to help guide management and nutrition decisions. The report will alert dairy producers when prevalence levels increase above desired levels. At which time blood-based testing protocols should be implemented to more closely manage ketosis in fresh cows. The product provides a herd prevalence trend that can be used to track the impact of management changes on transitional cow health.

White explained when the incidence of ketosis in a herd is above 15 percent, research shows the expense of blood testing fresh cows twice is justified. Depending on individual farm constraints, the economics and practicality of blood testing may be slightly different, and the monitor can provide a consistent prevalence indicator month to month. The report tracks levels over a period of 12 months, allowing producers to recognize the impact of seasonal and management changes.

White said a herd of 1,000 cows with a 30 percent rate of ketosis is losing up to $90,000 a year due to the disorder. If that rate could be reduced to 15 percent, it could save the operation up to $50,000 a year. “Or you could look at it as having $50,000 to improve transition cow management or comfort that further reduces the incidence of ketosis,” White said.

Cows with ketosis produce less milk, are more likely to develop a displaced abomasum (DA) and are more likely to be culled from the herd. Clinical ketosis (blood BHBA greater than 3.0 mM occurs in 10 to 15 percent of transition cows) usually presents observable symptoms, but White said subclinical ketosis (blood BHBA between 1.2 mM to 3.0 mM occurs in 40 to 60 percent of transition cows) is a “silent killer” because there are usually not observable symptoms. Even without symptoms, the subclinical cows are three times more likely to develop a DA, are 50 times more likely to be culled within 30 days, are less likely to conceive to first service, and they produce nearly 400 pounds less milk in first 30 days.

Although not designed to be an individual cow test, the monitor will also flag cows between five and 11 days in milk that are likely to have ketosis.

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The product is available only through AgSource at this time, and dairy producers who subscribe to MyAgSource will find the monitor included at no additional charge. Other producers who would like the report will be charged 10 cents per active cow in the herd with a minimum charge of $5 for a herd.

The research team, consisting of staff from the University of Wisconsin – Madison Veterinary Medicine and Dairy Science, and more than two dozen AgSource staff members, spent nine months conducting the research and designing the program and report. For more information, go to AgSource’s website. PD

Kelli Boylen is a freelance writer in Waterville, Iowa.

More information on the KetoMonitor will appear in the May 25 print edition of Progressive Dairyman.

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