NADIS disease forecast – Dairy Cattle (December)


NADIS Dairy Cattle Forecast – December 2005

Adult Cattle


The weather in November has been generally wet and mild, despite a few dry and colder periods. This is probably set to continue into December. This may allow some dry cows and heifers to stay out in favoured areas, but most cows are now indoors on managed rations.

So far this winter fertility has been average after a poor summer. The particular problem this year has been non-detected oestrus which has been running at levels almost 50% above average. As December is usually the worst month except for January, it’s worth paying attention to whether your cows are bulling in December so you can pick up and treat problems early. Getting your vet involved at an early stage can save considerable amounts of money. If you do have problems check that your cows are eating what they’re supposed to and ensure that their energy input is meeting their output in milk before you start investigating mineral or protein problems

Regular condition scoring is extremely valuable. Scoring your cows at calving and again in early and mid-lactation gives a good indication of how much nutritional stress your cows are under – too much condition loss will lead to reduced yields and reduced fertility. Measuring condition is the fastest and cheapest way of identifying energy problems.


So far this year, the number of hoof horn diseases, such as sole ulcer and white line disease seen by NADIS vets has been relatively low throughout most of the year, although increases in sole ulcer have been seen in the last two to three months, perhaps reflecting wetter underfoot conditions.

The best method of control of these diseases is a good comfortable environment, and the best test for that is to look at your cows. At a quiet time, preferably around 2 hours before milking, look at the cows in cubicles. Count how many are touching cubicles that are standing (either with all feet on the bed or perching with two feet in / two feet out). This should be less than 20%. If it’s higher than this that means your cows are standing for too long which is the main underlying of lameness on most dairy farms, and you need to look at your cubicles. Sometimes simple things such as bit more bedding, removing an obstructive head rail or reducing the exposure to the wind in cubicles at the end of the row can have a significant impact on how comfortable the cows find the cubicles.


After a poor start to the year the level of toxic mastitis has been below average for most of 2005. However the next two months are peak months for environmental and toxic mastitis, so now is the time to ensure your prevention strategy is up and running. It is particularly important to remember that although toxic mastitis is seen in milking cows over 50% of toxic mastitis cases got infected in the dry period, so keep dry cows in as clean and dry an environment as possible, particularly around calving.

Metabolic disease

Watch out for acidosis and acetonaemia this month.  Both of these diseases are linked to problems with the diet cows are being fed. In most cases acidosis develops as a result of a too rapid changeover in diet. Remember if you are changing the diet over the winter period, the rumen takes about ten to 14 days to adapt to any major change in diet.  Acidosis isn’t just gut upset, in many cases, even though cows aren’t obviously unwell, acidosis can result in significantly less milk production and other diseases such as lameness and metritis.   Acetonaemia occurs when the feed intake doesn’t match the milk output and the cow uses too much body tissue to carry on producing milk. It can occur after acidosis as that significantly reduces appetite and thus food intake.

Growing cattle

Fertility rates are historically poor in November/December, as winter progresses keeping up fertility levels will become increasingly difficult. Get your vet to identify problems now in order to significant costs later.

Lameness is a common winter problem in heifers accounting for about a third of all problems. Many animals had overgrown feet. It’s essential to get a heifers foot right so that when it calves down the extra stress of calving and lactating don’t impact on a foot that’s already misshapen and soft.  Don’t expect heifers to go from straw yards to concrete cubicles and if possible check and trim the feet of all your heifers before they calve down.

The good October and early November weather has meant that the number of respiratory problems seen by NADIS vets has been significantly lower than normal this year. The mild wet weather predicted for December may increase the number of cases particularly if there isn’t much wind. The low number of cases so far means that there’s still time to look at vaccination programmes.

There have also been fewer calf scour outbreaks recently than normal. The low base means that it’s the ideal opportunity to discuss with your vet the best changes to make to prevent the usual winter rise in scour problems.

Copyright © NADIS 2005

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