Current Progressive Dairy digital edition

Herd Health

Find information about mastitis, transition cows, vaccination protocols, working with your veterinarian, hoof care and hoof trimming.


Severity of heat stress is quantified using a temperature humidity index (THI). Both ambient temperature and relative humidity are used to calculate a THI. Signs of heat stress become evident in dairy cows when the THI exceeds 72. The same THI can be produced by various combinations of temperature and humidity (see Figure 1). Dairy producers can purchase a thermometer or hygrometer and use Figure 1 to determine the level of heat stress at different locations on the dairy. Measurements should be taken at the level of the cows’ backs, along the feeding area, in the freestalls and in the holding pen.

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Metabolic diseases are those associated with the chemical processes necessary for maintenance of life. In cattle, metabolic diseases include errors in electrolyte/mineral metabolism, of which parturient hypocalcemia (milk fever) is most common, or errors associated with energy metabolism, including ketosis and displaced abomasum. Metabolic diseases are associated in that the occurrence of one increases the risk of another. These associations tend to leverage the impact of disease on the animal.

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Body condition scores (BCS) provide an indication of the energy status of dairy cattle. Condition scores can be used on both heifers and cows, although primarily they are used on the lactating dairy herd. Essentially, body condition scoring provides an objective indication of the amount of fat cover on a dairy cow. This evaluation is accomplished by assigning a score to the amount of fat observed on several skeletal parts of the cow. Various point systems are used to score the animal. The most commonly used system ranges from 1.0 to 5.0, in increments of 0.1 or 0.25. One point of body condition equals 100 to 140 pounds gain in bodyweight. Larger frame cows require additional bodyweight to increase one point, compared to smaller frame or narrow cows.

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