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Treating downer cows

Treating downer cows

Treating downer cows

Almost every dairy farm will experience some metabolic downer cow cases in spring. This is caused by cows unable to regulate the complexities of mineral and energy metabolism.

The contributing factors to metabolic diseases are:

  • Increased energy demands for milk production and sudden demand for Calcium (Ca) which requires mobilisation from the cow’s bone stores
  • Decreased Dry Matter (DM) and energy intake around calving time
  • High Magnesium (Mg) requirements coinciding with low levels present in pasture.

Treating milk fever
Milk fever (hypocalcaemia) is a common form of metabolic disease. It consists of low blood Ca levels often found in older, well-conditioned cows. Up to 70 percent of a herd maybe affected by sub-clinical milk fever due to a lack of Ca in the blood at calving or during the first 48 hours after calving. The result of this can be as high as 10 percent of the herd having clinical milk fever symptoms.

During the early stages of milk fever treat affected cows by administering 500 ml of Metaboost CBG 40 percent (Ca gluconate with Boric acid equivalent to 400 g per L Ca borogluconate) under the skin of the neck or over the ribs, as well as giving 750 ml of Calci Blue Oral Gel Ca supplement.

For recumbent cows (down cow), give 500 ml Metaboost CBG slowly into the jugular vein in the neck and 750 ml of Calci Blue orally, only if they have a swallow reflex, to extend Ca protection and the availability period for 24 hours. The same treatment can be given the following day if required.

Milk fever can be complicated by low Mg or ketosis. If this is the case, give 500 ml of Metaboost 4 in 1 containing Ca, Mg, Phosphorus and dextrose.

Treating grass staggers
Grass staggers (hypomagnesaemia) is a metabolic disorder that can occur anytime. It is associated with lush grass and insufficient effective Mg supplementation. Up to 30 percent of a herd may be affected with insufficient Mg under poor management and grazing conditions. Early signs are an agitated cow, while a drop in milk production can occur at herd level. Progression leads to excited, aggressive behaviour and eventually the cow will go down but remain alert.

Grass staggers is an emergency, so immediate treatment is required. Mild cases of grass staggers require 500 ml of Metaboost 4 in 1 under the skin along with 750 ml of Calci Blue oral supplement. Repeat this treatment under the skin 12 hours later or drench the cow with Oral Mag Mg supplement.

Severe cases require 500 ml bag of Magnesium Sulphate (MgSO4)under the skin and be sure to seek further advice from your vet.

If unsure what the cause of the metabolic disorder in the cow maybe suffering from, use the Metaboost 4 in 1 as it contains enough Ca to combat milk fever and enough Mg to treat grass staggers.

For any specific questions relating to metabolic disorders and treatment advice, contact your local PGG Wrightson Technical Field Representative.