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Down Cows?

Jason WebWhich treatment should I use?

High producing cows often can't balance the supply and demand of essential minerals and energy needed to produce high volumes of milk so they run into metabolic problems like Milk Fever, Grass Staggers and Ketosis.



Milk Fever - the most common metabolic condition

Milk Fever usually occurs around three days either side of calving due to the onset of lactation that results in the sudden loss of calcium into milk.  Early in lactation a high producing cow's calcium requirements exceed her ability to mobilise calcium reserves (bones) and absorb enough calcium from the diet.  Milk Fever may be seen in cows of any age but is more common in high producing dairy cows over five years of age.  Milk Fever is characterised by cows staggering and lying down with head and neck kinked back, tremors, hypothermia, and constipation.  If left untreated, cows will die due to circulatory collapse and respiratory failure.

Grass staggers (low magnesium)

Grass Staggers is caused by a sudden drop in blood magnesium and is common in spring due to an increased requirement of magnesium for lactation and at the same time a decreased magnesium content of lush green pastures.  Unlike Milk Fever, Grass Staggers is not restricted to the first few days of lactation and may occasionally occur in autumn.  Adult lactating animals are most susceptible but younger stock are occasionally susceptible especially when cold or feed stressed.  Grass Staggers is seen initially as a flutter of the eyelids followed by hyper-excitability, muscular spasms and in-coordination, convulsion, respiratory distress, collapse and eventually death.

Ketosis (low energy)

Ketosis is a common disease of high producing dairy cows which usually occurs in the first few weeks of lactation in animals with excessive fat.  Milk production creates a high glucose demand often at a time when grass production cannot yet provide cows with sufficient calories.  Animals then try to correct this negative energy balance by digesting their body reserves and in the process produce ketone bodies (including acetone).  Clinical signs are not very pronounced or specific but may include reduced feed intake, wasting, drop in milk production, sweet acetone smell in breath, milk and urine, and slight dehydration.  Nervous symptoms like abnormal licking and chewing, grinding of teeth, tremors, blindness and aggression may be seen in a minority of the cases.

Ask your vet for best advice on how to reduce the risk of these metabolic conditions and treat them promptly.

Symptoms

Condition

Deficiency

Suitable Product

Weakness, wobbliness, depression, lying down with head turned back, glassy eyes and constipation
Milk Fever
Calcium Calpro 375
Excitability, nervousness, staggery on feet, sitting on knees, unable to get up or cast
Grass Staggers
Magnesium Magnesium Sulphate 20%
Lack of appetite, grinding of teeth, apparent blindness and circling, sweet, sickly odour to breath and milk
Ketosis
Energy Dextrose 40%
As above for: Milk fever plus Grass Staggers
Milk Fever plus
Grass Staggers
Calcium plus Magnesium Calpromag
As above for : Milk fever, Grass Staggers and Ketosis
Milk Fever plus
Grass Staggers
and Ketosis
Calcium plus Magnesium and Energy Calpromax:
As above plus "Downer Cows"
Milk Fever plus
Grass Staggers
and Ketosis
As above plus:  Possible phosphorus imbalance Calprophos