2013-03-12 xml
Cow Condition – A Fertility Time Bomb?

Dairy farmers across the country are facing multiple problems this year. Forage quality and concentrate availability combined with the terrible weather has really left some herds in a poorer state of health than normal, corresponding with reports of decline in milk yields and problems with fertility.

Poor body condition can be blamed on various things, but in particular the diet provided may be deficient in energy, leading to the cow utilising fat reserves in her body to meet demand for maintenance and milk production. New calved cows that go off their food post-calving are guilty of utilising fat which, if not managed correctly can lead to a cascade of troubles, but more importantly sub-clinical and clinical ketosis.

Dairy Cows

photo © Jennifer MacKenzie

As the cow utilises fat to bridge the energy gap, the liver has to metabolise a much greater amount of fat than normal. Eventually, the liver is over run and a fat build up is created resulting in the metabolic disorder, fatty liver disease. This can have serious implications for the cow. The reduced liver metabolism decreases feed intakes resulting in a deficiency in energy.

As the cow starts to lose condition, key hormones like insulin run low and this can have a number of implications. Low insulin can reduce the efficiency of key receptors around the body, in particular progesterone, the main reproductive hormone, resulting in reduced conception rates.

Although the cow may seem healthy enough to the eye, she could be in a state of sub-clinical ketosis. A study carried out by the University of Edinburgh found that out of 42734 dairy cows, 30% showed signs of subclinical ketosis when their blood was analysed for raised levels of BOHB (beta hydroxybutyrate) and NEFA (non-esterified fatty acids).

The study found that 3-4% showed symptoms of clinical ketosis, the worst form where the cow will go off her food completely and condition will deteriorate quickly. These findings illustrate to us that if you have a cow with clinical ketosis, then it is only the tip of the iceberg as there is likely to be a further 27% suffering from the sub-clinical form. Another study carried out by Cornell University, USA found that of these cows showing signs of ketosis, 13% were less likely to get back in calve and they went on to produce 393kg less milk.

These findings highlight the importance of transitional cow management. Giving attention to these problematic cows will aid the future outlook for the herd and increase profitability in the long run.

At Harbro, nutritional health is of paramount importance and we have devised a solution that reduces the impact of ketosis on dairy farms. Glucose Aid is a new innovative product which is used to target feed these problematic cows. It provides the cow with a safe source of rumen protected glucose to bridge the energy gap and boost glucose levels. On top of this, there are liver function enhancers present which will inhibit the likelihood of fatty liver disease occurring. The rumen protected glucose leads to an immediate spike in blood insulin levels, subsequently increasing progesterone receptor efficiency and conception rates.

Two trials were conducted on farms on the south west of Scotland which concluded that Glucose Aid increased milk yields, dry matter intake (DMI) and pregnancy succession. On farm A, conception success rate decreased by 5.5 days and projected calving interval was reduced by 6.5 days. Unlike when traditional fats are used, DMI didn’t decrease in the first couple of weeks when Glucose aid was introduced.

On farm B, an increase of 2.3% in DMI was noted along with a 2.5% lift in milk yield. Both farmers noted a significant increase in pregnancy diagnosis success rates with farm A reporting a reduction of 0.19 services until conception was recorded.

These findings illustrate the success Glucose Aid can have on problematic dairy cows. By supplying an effective energy boost, body condition greatly improves along with fertility success. It can be a key product in running an efficient dairy farm this year - as conditions prove testing, it is a solution such as this that could be the answer to a fundamental problem.


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