Tackle ketosis at the source


It is probably a familiar situation: the cow that always produces a lot of milk is under the weather at the start of the lactation period. Her milk production is down, she has a poor appetite and looks lethargic. All the alarm bells ring. Are these symptoms a sign of ketosis?

Prevention is better than cure is a saying that certainly applies to ketosis. Providing an optimal feed ration can prevent a great deal of trouble, but even so some cows are more susceptible than others. As the condition is hereditary, you may have certain cow families that are more prone to ketosis. In addition to the season of calving, management and parity, genetics also play a role in whether or not a cow suffers from this disorder. It has a heritability of approximately 20%. This means that the risk of ketosis occurring can be considerably reduced through breeding.

Bull_breeding value ketosis_heifers_second calf_third calf

Breeding value ketosis per bull for heifers, second calf and third calf

How does it work?
Since December 2014, CRV has presented the breeding value for ketosis for each bull. A score higher than 100 means that descendants of this bull have a lower risk of contracting ketosis. On average, 11% of cows contract ketosis, and this percentage rises to even 24% among older animals. By using bulls with a higher breeding value for ketosis, you can ensure your herd is less susceptible and the number of problem cows will fall.

Huge differences
Do daughters of bulls with a breeding value of 108 never suffer from ketosis? Unfortunately, the answer is no, however the percentage is considerably lower than daughters of bulls with a breeding value of 92 or even lower for this factor.

Percentage of descendants with ketosis in lactation 3.

Percentage of descendants with ketosis in lactation 3.

The figure above shows that just 11% of the descendants of bulls with a breeding value of 108 or higher contract ketosis in the third lactation, compared with 37% of the descendants of bulls with a breeding value of 92 or lower. In a herd of 100 older cows that is a difference of 26 animals.

Breeding is a simple tool to reduce the incidence of ketosis in your dairy herd. Ketosis is part of the Better Life Health index. If you opt for Better Life Health, then reduced ketosis is automatically taken into account.

Ketosis is one of the commonest metabolic disorders of dairy cattle in the first 60 days after calving. The cow develops a negative energy balance as she cannot take up enough energy from her feed to cope with her increasing milk production. As a result, she starts to burn her own fat reserves. It is quite normal to burn some of the bodily fat reserves, they will be replenished again during lactation. Where it goes wrong is when large body fat reserves are mobilised. This process creates ketones in the form of acetone and betahydroxybutyric acid (BHBA), which have a negative effect on the appetite.