Staying One Step Ahead of Ketosis

by Dr. Mike Costin, ANIMART Professional Services Veterinarian

Due to the drought last year followed by a wet spring and late planting, dairy cow rations have been extremely variable. Due to the variability of feed harvested, even a balanced ration on paper can lead to ketosis in fresh cows or heifers. 
 
Ketosis is a condition characterized by abnormally elevated concentrations of the ketone bodies acetoacetic acid (AcAc), acetone (Ac) and B-hydroxybutyric acid (BHB) in the body.  It is caused by a negative energy balance during early lactation due to deficient intakes or more frequently, the body’s inability to mobilize what has been ingested. This leads to a reduction of glucose in the blood and increased fat mobilization that result in elevated levels of ketone bodies. Ketosis becomes a disease condition only when the absorption and production of ketone bodies exceeds their use. 
 
Prevention is key when working with diseases such as ketosis because they can be avoided if the proper precautions are taken. Since the underlying mechanism of ketosis is one of negative energy balance during the first eight weeks of lactation, prevention starts during the previous lactation. A dry cow ration that promotes good body condition at calving should be implemented. Once a cow freshens, optimum intake of the lactating cow ration should be encouraged by introducing a highly palatable and energy dense ration in a stepwise fashion. Dairy producers should work closely with their nutritionists to monitor these rations.
 
Dairy producers should also monitor their fresh cows for ketosis during the post fresh period on a regular basis. This can be done several ways. Ketopowder can be used to check milk or urine for high levels of ketone bodies or Ketostix can be used to check the urine. Alternatively, PortaBHB Ketone Test Strips can be used to check for the ketone body B-hydroxybutyric acid (BHB). 
 
Once ketosis is detected, treatment should commence. Cows can be drenched with 8 ounces of propylene Glycol orally twice a day for two days, and once a day for two additional days. Another option that has been utilized is to administer 500 ml Dextrose intravenously. This is a transient fix that only lasts for 12-24 hours. While treating for ketosis, the cow should be monitored for appetite and milk production and checked for a displaced abomasum daily until the situation is resolved.
 
A properly formulated and balanced dry cow and fresh cow ration developed with your nutritionist coupled with a fresh cow ketosis monitoring program will help prevent ketosis and alert the dairy producer quickly when it occurs. These steps will help your cows transition into their lactation and achieve their maximum milk production as well as reduce your treatment costs.
 
ANIMART is here to help you with all your cow health needs.