Blood Sampling of Transition Dairy Cows Leads to Enhanced Health and Performance
When transition dairy cows experience a drop in blood calcium, but not low enough to be classified as milk fever, it is classified as subclinical hypocalcemia. This condition can 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 loss.
Miedema Dairy in Circleville, Ohio, has a successful track record of transition cow health. However, always looking for ways to maximize performance, the dairy’s nutritionist, Evan Barton, recommended participation in a blood sampling program offered by Prince Agri Products, Inc., designed to help detect and respond to subclinical hypocalcemia in pre-fresh cows.
When test results revealed that some blood calcium concentrations had fallen into the 8.5 to 5.5 mg/dL range for subclinical hypocalcemia, the dairy began feeding Animate, a unique, patented, anionic mineral supplement from Prince Agri Products, Inc. Animate has been proven to help reduce the risk of low blood calcium in postpartum dairy cows and, because it’s highly palatable, it can help attain a negative dietary cation-anion difference (DCAD) diet while also maintaining high dry matter intake. To ensure the Miedema Dairy cows were fully acidified, Tom Elliott, Prince Agri Products Area Supervisor, monitored urine pH values.
“Based on our experience, we’d recommend testing pre-fresh cows even if you don’t think you have a low blood calcium problem,” says Barton. “There’s definitely a benefit in improving those numbers even if there are no visible symptoms of subclinical hypocalcemia.”
Andy Miedema, dairy owner, says he is continuing to feed Animate to all transition cows on his 950-cow dairy, beginning about three weeks prior to calving. “We’ve ended up with healthier cows and higher production. Our cows are doing well and we’ve seen the difference, including better start-up, which is an indicator that feed intake has improved.”
“Many other dairies throughout the U.S. have been experiencing similar results by participating in Prince’s blood testing program,” Elliott says. “It’s not only a valuable method of detecting subclinical hypocalcemia, but also a useful tool to confirm that a negative DCAD diet is properly formulated after Animate has been added to close-up cow diets.”