Journal of Reproduction and Development
Monitoring Metabolic Health of Dairy Cattle in the Transition Period
Stephen LEBLANC
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Volume 56 (2010) Issue S Pages S29-S35

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Abstract

This paper reviews the importance of energy metabolism in transition dairy cows, its associations with disease and reproduction, and strategies for monitoring cows under field conditions during this critical time. Essentially all dairy cattle experience a period of insulin resistance, reduced feed intake, negative energy balance, hypocalcemia, reduced immune function, and bacterial contamination of the uterus soon before, or in the weeks after calving. One-third of dairy cows may be affected by some form of metabolic or infectious disease in early lactation. Routine, proactive actions, observations, or analysis are intended to accurately and efficiently provide early detection of problems, to provide an opportunity for investigation and intervention in order to limit the consequences and costs of health problems and reduced animal performance or welfare. Methods of early detection include monitoring of disease and culling records, feed intake, milk production, body condition, and simple metabolic tests. Methods, strategies, and interpretation of measurement of peripartum concentrations of non-esterified fatty acids (NEFA) and β-hydroxybutyrate (BHB) as indicators of aspects of energy status and disease risk are reviewed. High NEFA (> 0.4 mmol/l) in the last 7 to 10 days before expected calving is associated with increased risk of displaced abomasum (DA), retained placenta, culling before 60 days in milk, and less milk production in the first 4 months of lactation. Subclinical ketosis (serum BHB > 1200 to 1400 μmol/l) in the first or second week after calving is associated with increased risk of DA, metritis, clinical ketosis, endometritis, prolonged postpartum anovulation, increased severity of mastitis, and lower milk production in early lactation. There are several validated and practical tools for cow-side measurement of ketosis.

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