Manage the calcium balance around calving

Calcium deficiency in cows

Immediately after calving, blood calcium levels drop significantly. Cows try to respond to this drop by increasing uptake of calcium out of the ration and by mobilising calcium from the bones. As older cows have a less active bone metabolism, problems with low blood calcium levels occur more often in older cows.

Milk fever in dairy cows

The hormonal adaptation required to avoid a calcium deficiency in cattle takes about two days. Milk fever may occur if the cow fails to increase its calcium uptake successfully.

Sub-clinical milk fever in cows

Most of the cows that do not develop visible signs of milk fever still have low calcium levels in their blood immediately after calving, resulting in sub-clinical milk fever. For every case of clinical milk fever in a herd, there are 4 cases of sub-clinical milk fever! Sub-clinical milk fever in dairy cows results in a further decrease in dry matter intake. This leads to a lower milk production, reduced fertility and an increased risk of early culling.

Managing transition to lactation

Cows go through significant metabolic changes in the period around calving:

  • Calving results in a loss of fluid and electrolytes
  • The demand for calcium goes up dramatically
  • The start of milk production results in a negative energy balance

If the transition to lactation is not managed properly, this may result in a high rate of involuntary culling in the first 60 days after calving, leading to a serious negative economic impact.

Learn more about managing transition to lactation.

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