Dairy farmers are being encouraged to take a proactive approach to ketosis management by identifying and treating all cows that fall into the at-risk ‘SOFT’ categories.

With ketosis incidence as high as 60% on some dairy farms, Elanco veterinary technical consultant, Wesley Power, explains that farmers are generally aware of and actively managing cows falling into one or two of the categories, but not always all of them. This means outliers are often missed.

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The 'SOFT’ model outlines all cows at the greatest risk of developing ketosis, including Sick, Old, Fat, Thin and Twin-bearing animals, Mr Power says.

“Although the vast majority of cases are sub-clinical, it doesn’t mean this doesn’t result in a drop in a costly loss in productivity of up to £255 per cow, as ketosis is a ‘gateway disease’ that can greatly increase the likelihood of a cow developing further health problems.

“It’s particularly important that these at-risk cows, under extra metabolic pressure are pinpointed, as the sub-clinical disease has no obvious symptoms, meaning it can go totally undetected until it becomes more serious,” he added.

The first step, as part of a preventive disease strategy, is to set up routine monitoring of these ‘SOFT’ cows. With autumn calving fast approaching for many, he recommends assessing cows at least one month before dry off, to allow the best chance of BCS changes through dry cow management adjustments.

“Being aware of these changes in condition allows farmers to work with their advisers and team to optimise feed rations to help protect against the negative energy balance that causes ketosis to develop around calving,” he says.

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With milk yields, fertility and cow health all being negatively impacted by sub-clinical ketosis, Mr Power recommends treating all ‘SOFT’ cows with a preventive bolus to further reduce the risk of the disease developing.

“Administering a bolus, such as Kexxtone™, three to four weeks ahead of calving can reduce the incidence of ketosis by up to 74% . The active ingredient, monensin, is released into the rumen over 95 days, stimulating glucose production, to decrease the energy gap that leads to ketosis.”

Mr Power added that while bolusing cows that do not have a visible disease may seem costly, the expense of a case of ketosis far outweighs the cost of treatment, with returns on investment calculated to be as high as 7:1.

For more information on ketosis and its management, please visit www.farmanimalhealth.co.uk/dairy/kick-ketosis or speak to your vet about identifying and bolusing at-risk dairy cows and heifers.