Farmers need to keep a keen eye on ketosis risk and consider a new preventative treatment strategy as dwindling forage stocks and ration variability push cows to the edge. With little grass growth and many producers already seeing the back of the silage clamp, getting energy into cows is a real struggle.
As a result, ketosis – which occurs when energy demand for milk production exceeds energy intake – is a growing problem.
Vet Paddy Gordon from the Shepton Vet Group says the practice has already seen more ketosis than usual at this time of year.
“This is largely a reflection of reduced amounts of feed, reduced quality and changes in feed,” he explains.
Because ketosis can act as a “gateway disease” to other health problems, vet James Allcock from Lambert Leonard and May says he expects to see an increased incidence of displaced abomasums and fertility issues this season.
“It’s been a challenging year, but regardless of this, sub-clinical ketosis is always an issue. A review of farms within the practice over the winter found a quarter had half their herd at risk of ketosis.
“Although clinical ketosis is not that common, forage stock issues will certainly result in more subclinical ketosis, which could subsequently lead to clinical ketosis.”
Mr Gordon says when herds are going through a period of ketosis risk, it is worth farmers talking to their vets to see whether there is value in them using the new pharmaceutical product Kexxtone as a preventative measure.
The new bolus contains monensin, which acts to improve the efficiency of rumen fermentation, allowing more energy to be produced for every mouthful of feed.
A single bolus is given to each cow three to four weeks before calving.
Kexxtone will switch the metabolism of the at-risk cows so more glucose is produced and ketosis is controlled, Mr Allcock explains.
“Trial work found fewer than one in 10 cows treated with Kexxtone showed evidence of ketosis – a 74% reduction compared with those that received a placebo. Treatment can also help cows maintain milk production.”
However, at just under £30 a bolus, it will be important to take vet advice on which cows would benefit from treatment, he says.
Ketosis costing dairy farmers thousands a year