Milk fever

Discussion in 'Cattle' started by OD, Jun 12, 2004.

  1. OD

    OD Well-Known Member

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    My 11 year old Jersey cow almost died last year, when she had her 7th calf, from milk fever. It took 2 IV's about 8 hr.s apart to save her. The vet said she should not be bred back last year & now I'm wondering if it will be OK to breed her this year. She raised her own calf & 5 others & still has 2 on her. They are all fat & healthy now. She gets minerals free choice. I raised her from a baby, & we have 4 generations of of her daughters. None of them has ever had this problem before, & I'm not sure what I should do. Is it likely to happen again?
     
  2. Ken Scharabok

    Ken Scharabok In Remembrance

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    There are no guarantees either way. Talk with the vet again. You can be prepared for it next time by having some of the treatment available (the paste which is squirted down the throat) you can use until the vet gets there to do calcium IVs. Go with the vet's advice, but unless he was totally against it, seriously consider the being prepared in advance route.

    Ken S. in WC TN
     

  3. OD

    OD Well-Known Member

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    Thanks--
    That's what the vet said, but he treats mostly beef cows & not many dairy cows, so I thought I'd try to get a few more opinions--maybe from people that had experienced the same problem.
     
  4. MARYDVM

    MARYDVM Well-Known Member

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    Once an old Jersey starts with milk fever, they often do it every year. Aside from being ready to treat it, you can decrease the chance of it developing if you feed the cow correctly while she's dry. The minerals she gets at that time should be dry cow formula - minerals formulated for a milking cow will almost guarantee milk fever. She should not be getting lush green pasture or top quality hay while dry. Don't let her get fat. When she freshens be sure to start milking her out gradually. Emptying her bag completely on the first milking will drop her blood calcium level fast.
     
  5. tinknal

    tinknal Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Go ahead and breed her, she's worthless otherwise. This sounds funny, but it's documented fact, you need to restrict calcium intake during the last 3 months of pregnancy, this causes a hormonal change which allows the cow to "borrow" calcium from her bones when she freshens. Lush green pasture is fine, as long as there is no high calcium forage such as clover or alfalfa. Also, do not feed clover or alphalfa hay in the last 3 months. As soon as she freshens, feed her as much as you want
     
  6. MARYDVM

    MARYDVM Well-Known Member

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    Lush green pasture is not fine for an 11 year old Jersey that will be dry for an excessive period of time. Ca/Mg balance is off, and she will likely put on too much condition.
     
  7. OD

    OD Well-Known Member

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    She and her two 4 month old calves are in about 3 acres of bahia grass & the three of them eat about 2 gallons of sweet feed twice a day. The grass IS starting to get pretty lush. I was planning to wean these two & put a new baby on her next month. Do you think it would be best to dry her up now & stop feeding her & let her get thin?
     
  8. MARYDVM

    MARYDVM Well-Known Member

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    Having been in milk so long, she will probably dry up on her own once she settles. It is more a question of keeping her from gaining during the dry period, rather than trying to make her lose weight (that would cause other problems). A long dry period in an old cow predisposes to a number of problems when she finally freshens. She may do OK, but you could lose her too. If she's a pet you might want to retire her. If her value is as a producer, then breeding her is the only way she'll earn her keep.
     
  9. OD

    OD Well-Known Member

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    Well, this really poses a problem. She is very much a loved pet, but she also raises about $2000 worth of calves every year. I'll have to give this some thought. What is the difference in the formula of minerals for dry cows as apposed to the one for lactating cows? The ones we get don't say which they are for.
    I really appreciate you answering all these questions. Nobody around here knows much about dairy cows.
     
  10. Ken Scharabok

    Ken Scharabok In Remembrance

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    A 'dry' cow formula should have less protein and calcium than one for 'lactating' cows. You may be missing a valuable local resource - your local Agricultural Extension Agent. Why they may not even know the difference between a Holstein and a Jersey, they should be able to get you any information you need from the state's agricultural college.

    Ken S. in WC TN
     
  11. MARYDVM

    MARYDVM Well-Known Member

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    I would guess your minerals are a general beef cow supplement. I don't have any experience there, so can't say how it compares to dairy cattle supplements.

    Commercial dairy operations feed a very concentrated diet, with mineral and energy balanced for top production (and high stress). Dry cow rations and minerals are very different, to keep the cow at a healthy weight and "rest" her system.Just a small variation in diet can have major consequences. One of the big AI bull studs had a serious problem 20 years or so ago when someone screwed up and fed a lactating cow mineral mix to the bulls. After a few months they started seeing 2,000 pound bulls being paralyzed from abnormal calcium deposits in their spines. The feed was actually harmful to any cattle not in high milk production.
     
  12. OD

    OD Well-Known Member

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    Thank you both for the good advice.
    I think I'll just turn her out with the bull & leave the calves on her as long as she'll feed them, to try to keep her lactating as long as possible. I'll find her some dry cow minerals by the time she dries up.
    Thinking back, we had some really good alfalfa that winter & she got a lot of it.That won't happen again!
    I hope I'm not doing the wrong thing.....
     
  13. Jackpine Savage

    Jackpine Savage Well-Known Member

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    Along with the good advice already given it's also a good idea to feed a low potassium forage the month prior to freshening. High potassium levels cause the blood PH to rise and that reduces the cows ability to make calcium available after calving. Alfalfa tends to be high in potassium and calcium and it could well be that the alfalfa was the culprit the last time around.

    Some reading concerning potassium levels in forage:

    http://www.uwex.edu/ces/forage/pubs/lowK.htm
    http://hayandforage.com/mag/farming_low_keeps_milk/
    http://www.engormix.com/e_articles_dairy_cattle.asp?ID=21
     
  14. OD

    OD Well-Known Member

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    Mostly we feed bahia grass hay in round rolls. The alfalfa is just fed in small amounts to get them to come up every morning so we can check on them easier. But the Jersey would sneak up by herself during the day & I would give her more.
    I believe you are probably right about the alfalfa being the problem. I had no idea that diet was so important.
    I wonder if bahia is too high in potassium. I HAVE to feed her something.