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Understanding ketosis

Approximately 75% of disease in dairy cows typically happens in the first month after calving1, with around half of dairy cows experiencing some sort of disease during the transition period2,3. Therefore improving transition management and minimising the effect of immune suppression, hypocalcemia and negative energy balance provides a large opportunity to decrease disease and increase the welfare and productivity of the herd.

Ketosis in numbers graphic

Negative energy balance occurs around calving due to the gap formed by reduced intake in feed at a time when demand for energy for late foetal growth and milk production rapidly increases. When this becomes excessive, e.g. where an animal has more marked decrease in intake due to lameness, sickness, being over conditioned, twin bearing, inadequate water or feed access, constant social disruption, etc. they are at risk of getting ketosis, ketones building up in blood, milk and urine. This is as a result of breaking down their body fat to fill this widened energy gap. In excess these ketones have negative consequences with respect to fertility, health and production.

energy gap graphics

Consequences of ketosis

consequences of ketosis
risk graph ketosis
clinical and subclinical ketosis

When thinking of ketosis often what springs to mind are the pear drop smell, milk drop, supressed appetite and poor rumen fill. However, these are indicators of clinical ketosis and are the tip of the iceberg.

There will be many other cows with high ketone levels which will affect their health and performance and show no clinical signs – this is known as hidden or subclinical ketosis.

Hidden ketosis has been described by one nutritionist, Hefin Richards of Rumenation Nutrition Consultancy as “like driving with the handbrake on. Everything else you do will have limited return, as cows will not be able to reach their potential.”


Identifying cows at risk of ketosis

Problems with transition cows usually manifest in the month immediately after calving. However, multiple factors can contribute, and many of the important precipitating factors start prior to calving, ie. in the dry cows. Find out more on how to identify the cows at risk of ketosis here.

Kexxtone™ is a veterinary medicine authorized to reduce the incidence of ketosis in periparturient dairy cows and heifers which are expected to develop ketosis. Kexxtone™ is not authorized for the treatment of any other transition disorder. Kexxtone contains Monensin. Ensure correct disposal to prevent access to used or recovered boluses to other species including dogs, horses and guinea fowl. Legal category POM-V in UK. Further information is available from the Summary of Product Characteristics. Advice should be sought from the medicine prescriber prior to use. Kexxtone, Elanco and the diagonal bar are trademarks of Elanco or its affiliates. Use medicines responsibly (http://www.noah.co.uk/responsible). PM-UK-20-0426