Elanco veterinarian Francis Cosgrave has highlighted the importance for Irish milk producers and practising vets to recognise the very negative impact of sub-clinical ketosis on freshly calved dairy cow performance.

He went in to confirm that the metabolic disorder is at the very heart of a complex series of interactions that can lead to a number of important production and health-related disorders, including retained placentas, LDAs and a significantly reduced immunity to many diseases.

“Clinical symptoms represent the very small tip of a very large ketosis iceberg,” he stressed.

“It is, therefore, vitally important to test for subclinical ketosis in cases of reduced fresh cow performance and the development of what are most likely to be ketosis-related post calving, health disorders.”

Research has confirmed that Ketosis can result, on average, in milk losses of around 350-500 litres per cow per lactation. The cost of production losses and disease related consequential losses due to subclinical ketosis has been estimated to range from €300 to €600 per case.

Cosgrave continued: “The development of the new Keto-Test by Elanco allows the immediate identification of the metabolic disorder using milk stripped from individual cows. Both high risk herds and individual high risk cows can be identified using the test.”

As Cosgrave went on to point out, identifying the challenge of ketosis should be part of a multi-faceted approach taken by milk producers in managing cows effectively through the all-important transition period.

He added: “It is now universally recognised that a cow’s new lactation begins the instant she is dried off. But even prior to this, milk producers should be aware of the need to ensure that cows are dried off with the proper body condition score.

“It is recommended that cows should be dried off at a Body Condition Score of 2.75, on a scale of 1 to 5. The optimal condition score at calving should be 3.25. I also strongly advise the feeding of high fibre forages throughout the dry period, as a means of reducing cows’ predisposition to Milk Fever.

Turning to the nutritional requirements of the freshly calved cow, the Elanco veterinarian stressed the absolute importance of keeping the period during which the cows is negative energy balance to an absolute minimum.

“Cows in negative energy balance will have a depressed immune system,” he stressed.

“And, obviously, this will predispose cows to ketosis – in both its clinical and sub clinical forms.

Cosgrave concluded: “The outlook for milk production in Ireland remains extremely bright. But dairy farmers will only fully capitalise on this potential if they strive to become more efficient. Managing the transition period is crucially important if farmers wish to ensure their cows’ maximise output and efficiency throughout the subsequent lactation. And, it is in this context that the significance of sub clinical ketosis must be gauged!”

Pictured Elanco veterinarian Francis Cosgrave