Understand the five key principles of this common metabolic disease.
By Brian Miller, Professional Services Veterinarian, Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, Inc.
Hypocalcemia, or low blood calcium, is an important determinant of fresh cow health and milk production. Five key principles shape our understanding of this common metabolic disease and how to manage it on your dairy.
1. Second and greater lactation cows have a transient hypocalcemia around calving.
2. Hypocalcemia is linked to other fresh cow problems.
3. Supplementation with oral calcium is the preferred approach for supporting cows that are exhibiting early signs of milk fever but are still standing.
4. Subclinical hypocalcemia has greater associated costs to your dairy than do clinical cases of milk fever.
5. Even herds with successful anionic salts programs and minimal cases of clinical milk fever will benefit from strategic use of oral calcium supplements.
Subclinical hypocalcemia is more costly than clinical milk fever because it affects a much higher percentage of cows in the herd. For example, if a 2,000-cow herd has a 2% annual incidence of clinical milk fever and each case of clinical milk fever costs $300, the loss to the dairy from clinical cases is about $12,000 per year.
If the same herd has a 30% annual incidence of subclinical hypocalcemia in second and greater lactation cows (assume 65% of cows in the herd) and each case costs $125 (an estimate that accounts for milk yield reduction and direct costs due to increased ketosis and displaced abomasum), the total herd loss from subclinical hypocalcemia is $48,750 per year. This is about four times greater than the cost of the clinical cases.
Dr. Miller is a Professional Services Veterinarian with Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, Inc. Born and raised on a dairy farm, he worked as a dairy practitioner in Mishicot and Whitewater, Wis., for more than 20 years. He joined Fort Dodge Animal Health in 2006. In 2009, he joined Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, Inc., as a result of its acquisition of Fort Dodge Animal Health products. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.