Blood Sampling Helps Dairies Use Nutrition to Manage Subclinical Hypocalcemia
When transition dairy cows experience a drop in blood calcium, but not low enough to be classified as milk fever, it is known as subclinical hypocalcemia. This condition can still have a negative impact on cow health and milk production, especially since it often goes undetected.
On a typical dairy operation, the incidence rate of subclinical hypocalcemia is estimated to be 15 times greater than clinical milk fever, resulting in four times the economic loss1.
Meerland Dairy in South Solon, Ohio, had been feeding its pre-fresh cows Animate, a unique patented, anionic mineral supplement from Prince Agri Products, Inc., that helps to reduce the risk of low blood calcium in postpartum dairy cows. Because it’s highly palatable, Animate can help attain a negative dietary cation-anion difference (DCAD) diet while also maintaining high dry matter intakes.
At the recommendation of Tom Elliott, a Prince Agri Products Area Supervisor, Meerland Dairy agreed to conduct blood sampling to determine if its DCAD diet was properly balanced. When results showed that a majority of blood calcium concentrations had fallen into the 8.5 to 5.5 mg/dL range for subclinical hypocalcemia, Elliott worked with the dairy’s nutritionist to adjust its DCAD diet, lowering it from a partially acidified to a recommended fully acidified diet. Elliott then monitored urine pH values on a weekly basis to ensure cows were in full acidification.
“We’ve had good success with Animate from the beginning, but we wanted to see if we could get even better results by reducing our DCAD diet even further,” says Dan Kurtz, co-owner of Cows Come First LLC, who serves as the dairy’s nutritionist. “The only way to find out is through blood calcium testing. By getting blood calcium levels above 8.5 mg/dL, we saw a reduction in metritis and retained placentas.”
Elliott notes that many other dairies have begun feeding Animate for the first time after blood sampling detected a subclinical hypocalcemia problem. “They have seen great improvement – sometimes dramatic,” he says. “Once they see change in performance, they continue to make Animate part of their nutritional strategy.”