Keeping A Lid On Ketosis

Posted on: April 06, 2017

A closer look at the risk of sub-clinical ketosis

Sub-clinical ketosis is an under-identified threat, estimated to affect 41 to 43% of cows at least once in the first 2 to 3 weeks postpartum. How much is this ‘silent’ form of the condition really worth worrying about though? Let’s look at the stats:

 Effects on disease

Blood BHB > 1.2 to 1.4 mmol/L in the first or second week after calving is associated with:

  • 3 to 8 times increased odds of displaced abomasum
  • 3 times greater risk of metritis
  • 4 to 6 times increased risk of clinical ketosis
  • Increased probability of subclinical endometritis at week 4 postpartum
  • Increased duration and severity (not incidence) of mastitis
  • 1.8 times increased odds of culling < 60 DIM

 Effects on milk yield

One study showed:

  • Yield was reduced by 1.9 kg/d in early lactation when BHB was > 1.4 mmol/L in week 1
  • Yield was reduced by 3.3 kg/d in early lactation when BHB was > 2.0 mmol/L in week 2

 Effects on reproduction

Serum BHB > 1.0 to 1.4 mmol/L in early lactation is associated with:

  • 3 times greater odds of metritis - 1.4 times greater odds of endometritis at 35 DIM
  • 1.5 fold increased odds of being not cyclic at 63 DIM
  • Decreased pregnancy at first AI

 Effects on economics

  • The cost of a case of SCK based on the above has been estimated at between £220-235

So aside from the undeniable negative impact of ketosis on cow health and well-being, how can this multi-faceted drain on profitability be prevented? The key lies in investigations into the presence of disease, prevention through appropriate alterations in management of the pre-fresh, maternity and early post-fresh periods, and implementation of routine screening and treatment protocols.

When ketosis is detected primarily in the first two weeks postpartum, emphasis should be placed on:

  • bringing cows to the dry period in moderate body condition (BCS = 3 to 3.5)
  • avoidance of energy intake greater than the maintenance requirement between dry-off and 3 weeks prepartum
  • measures to allow unrestricted access to feed intake by all cows in a group in the last few weeks before, and through the calving period.

An increased incidence 3 to 6 weeks postpartum means that preventive measures should be focused on:

  • enhancing feed intake in post-fresh period
  • ensuring the nutritional needs of cows with high production are being met
  • investigating the presence of (and subsequent removal of) poorly fermented wet grass or legume silage with high levels of butyric acid (> 0.5 to 1% of dry matter)

This blog is based on Dr Stephen LeBlanc’s presentation on the ‘Management of Ketosis’ at the Bayer Dairy Cattle Summit 2017.

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April 06, 2017