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Vet Cows Carlisle

Energy Problems in Early Lactation

If one of your freshly calved cows can’t take in enough energy to meet her requirements she will start to mobilise excessive body fat.

The fat is sent to her liver where it is turned into ketones. Ketones can be used for energy instead of glucose, the usual energy source, but are toxic in high concentrations. When ketone levels become high cows exhibit symptoms of “slow fever” including inappetance, being “off colour” and giving less milk, and we describe them as having ketosis or being ketotic. Even low levels of ketones can cause problems such as cystic ovaries, reduced fertility and twisted stomachs. In addition the liver doesn’t function properly when it’s infiltrated with fat and this suppresses the cow’s immune system making her prone to mastitis, metritis and even lameness.

In an ideal world cows would only be mobilising a little fat in early lactation. Good transition cow management can certainly reduce the problem of excessive fat mobilisation.

Unfortunately we don’t live in an ideal world and some cows need a little help to stop them mobilising too much fat and becoming ketotic, and this is where Kexxtone boluses can help. They are given to cows that are likely to develop problems after calving and are administered 3-4 weeks before calving. They work by altering the balance of rumen bacteria, encouraging those that utilise food the best, and increasing the energy delivered to the cow.

The active agent is a molecule called monensin which has been used extensively in the United States as a growth promoter. It is also used as a coccidosis treatment and to prevent bloat. It is also used in other species in the UK to control coccidiosis e.g. poultry.

Could you have a problem with ketosis?

To help answer this question we can perform a simple cow-side blood test. You should ideally present about 12 cows that are 2-21 days calved and if more than 25% have a high ketone reading you should consider giving boluses to those cows most likely to develop ketosis or slow fever.

Which cows do I bolus with Kexxtone?

  • Cows drying off with a condition score of more than 4
  • Cows that will be dry for more than two months
  • Cows that are losing weight in the early dry period
  • Cows carrying twins. (This is sometimes picked up at scanning.)
  • Heifers that are due to calve after 27 months of age
  • Cows that have had problems with displaced abomasum or ketosis in previous lactations

Studies have shown that cows at risk of developing ketosis gave, on average, 1.2kg extra milk per day from day 8 to day 135 compared to untreated cows.

Boluses are numbered and it is advisable to keep a note of the bolus number against the cow’s number as a small proportion of boluses will be lost.

Please feel free to discuss the use of Kexxtone with any of our farm vets.