Current Progressive Dairy digital edition

Three keys to fresh cow monitoring

Published on 09 October 2010

The first 10 days following calving are critical to lactation success. Producers must help cows transition smoothly from the dry period and into early lactation high production. Cows in good body condition with adequate access to a properly balanced ration, and plenty of housing and cooling, will have the necessary foundation for a successful transition period. In addition to meeting critical transition needs, producers should develop protocols to manage fresh cows and identify signs of post-fresh challenges.

“The transition period sets the stage for the entire lactation. Cows that successfully come through this challenging time will achieve higher production and better lactation performance,” explains Todd Birkle, DVM, fresh cow reproduction manager, Pfizer Animal Health. “It’s important for producers to put systems in place that prepare all cows for success while catching those that experience post-calving challenges.”



Birkle recommends a three-pronged approach to monitoring fresh cows for the first 10 days of lactation.

1. Parlor check
Milkers should assess udder fill when cows come into the parlor. Use a paint stick or chalk on the back of the lower leg to mark any cow that appears off-milk so she can be examined following milking. If electronic parlor management is used, watch for and mark any cow with a significant decline in production.

2. Front-side check
Daily visual observation of fresh cows can help catch early symptoms. Producers should assess appearance, attitude and appetite, specifically looking for signs of dehydration, eye or nasal discharge, droopy ears, or “sad cows” that just don’t seem right. One technique to identify these cows is to toss a handful of feed on their backs so they can be easily spotted for examination later.

3. Back-side check
Cows marked as suspect in the parlor or during the front-side check should be examined closely for signs of metabolic problems or metritis. Palpate all fresh cows on Day 4 and Day 7 for specific signs of metritis, such as uterine discharge with a strong odor. Pay close attention to cows showing disease symptoms.

“Once producers identify cows with metritis or other fresh cow diseases, they should work with the herd veterinarian to choose treatment options appropriate for the diagnosis,” Birkle said. “One of our goals is to keep fresh cows out of the hospital pen unless other supportive treatments are needed. For cows with uncomplicated metritis, I advocate leaving them in the fresh pen for treatment.


“Producers should work with their veterinarians to devise fresh cow monitoring protocols that fit within their dairies’ management goals, workflow and cow flow,” Birkle says. PD

Excerpts from Pfizer news release