milk fever

Discussion in 'Cattle' started by Elizabeth Dichi, Jun 25, 2004.

  1. Elizabeth Dichi

    Elizabeth Dichi Member

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    Hi Everybody:

    I have inherited a 9 year-old Jersey cow from some friends who were unable to breed her through artifical insemination. So we successfully bred her with our Red Poll bull. She is now between 6-9 months pregnant (vet was unable to be more precise). I do not know a lot about Jerseys and am worried about milk fever.

    We dried her off nine months ago to get her in better condition for breeding. She has been on pasture--clover, fescue and other grasses, and minerals--ever since. I hear a lot of contradictory info about what to do now for her diet.

    Start grain before she calves, after she calves or no grain, only hay, or just put her on low protein pasture and keep the rest the same? Any advice on this diet question would be appreciated. I am getting the calcium tubes just in case and will be ready to call the vet, but would like to avoid this through diet. Also I am told that milk fever is primarily due to commercial daries pushing these cows to produce max milk through high protein grains.

    Also, we want to keep the calf on as long as we do our beef calves (8 months) while milking once a day. I am told the two problems with this are that she will not let her milk down for us, but save it for her calf, and that the calf will scour. Are Jerseys really this delicate?

    Any advice with this would be appreciated!

    --Elizabeth
     
  2. Carol K

    Carol K Well-Known Member

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    Elizabeth,

    I PM'd you with some info that may help you out.

    Carol K
     

  3. Elizabeth Dichi

    Elizabeth Dichi Member

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    Anybody have any words of wisdom?

    Thanks, Elizabeth
     
  4. tinknal

    tinknal Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Liz, get her away from the clover (and any other high calcium feed) 2 months before freshening. Odd as it sounds you need to restrict calcium before freshening.
     
  5. MARYDVM

    MARYDVM Well-Known Member

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    Most commercial dairies start lead feeding grain in the two weeks prior to freshening. This helps prepare the cow's rumen for the sudden influx of high energy feed after she freshens. It shouldn't matter as much to a family cow that isn't being pushed into maximum production.

    Being dry for over 9 months will increase the risk of milk fever. Cows draw calcium from their bones to use in milk production, and this system has been shut down so long now, it will take time to get it started up. Low calcium feed is essential during the dry period, and the cow must not be allowed to get fat. In a commercial dairy a fat Jersey is a dead Jersey. Milk fever, retained placenta, ketosis, displaced abomasum, mastitis, are all problems we'd see when they got off to a poor start. The Jerseys didn't handle the stress of commercial operations well, but seem to do much better as a family cow.
     
  6. uncle Will in In.

    uncle Will in In. Well-Known Member Supporter

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    In days of old farmers were very adament to not milk out very much of the cows milk the first day after freshening. Not milking out more than enough to take the pressure off her bag the second day. When the milk clears up about the third or forth day it was Ok to milk her dry. Going into full production all at once can shock their system and rob them of the glucose in their body. Cows that only have a newborn calf taking their milk seldom if ever have milk fever.
     
  7. Elizabeth Dichi

    Elizabeth Dichi Member

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    Thanks for your comments, Mary. Three questions:

    1) What exactly is "too fat" for a Jersey? Our pasture choices are a relatively lush 3 acre pasture of fescue only, or a 1/4 acre well-grazed pasture with some clover. Does she need hay?

    2) Since we plan to leave the calf on, and will be content to get a gallon or 2 of milk/day, sounds like you're saying that she doesn't need grain before/right after calving? Could I just watch her condition and if she appears to be dropping weight slowly, add in grain at that point? However, I know it's hard to put on weight once it's lost.

    3) Our vet is over 1 hour away. I've been advised to learn how to use an IV for the CA in case she goes down. Any reading you can recommend on this?

    I appreciate your time. -- Elizabeth
     
  8. Elizabeth Dichi

    Elizabeth Dichi Member

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    Uncle Will:

    Thanks for your thoughts! This makes a lot of sense to me. As I suspected, perhaps the frequency of mild fever in Jerseys has more to do with demands placed on them, rather than just something inherent in the cows themselves. Otherwise, farmers in the old days would have lost a lot of cows since they didn't have calcium IV's lying around..

    --Elizabeth
     
  9. MARYDVM

    MARYDVM Well-Known Member

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    If you look at the cow from behind, and the bones and ligaments around the tailhead are coated with fat then she is too fat. Dairy cows are supposed to be angular - if they have rounded outlines like a beef cow it's not good.

    Don't know of any "how to' guides for giving a cow an IV. A lot of farmers use a milk vein, because it bulges right out, and is easy to hit, while the jugular vein can be harder for a novice to find. The calcium must be given slowly, it can stop the heart when given too fast. Most dairy vets have killed more than one cow while giving calcium. You can give the calcium SubQ under the skin near the shoulder. It is absorbed slowly - won't stop the heart, but if the cow is in really bad shape she needs it faster than that will be absorbed. Also you sometimes get an abcess later at the spot where the injection was made subQ. It's best to see someone do an IV before attempting it yourself.
     
  10. Jackpine Savage

    Jackpine Savage Well-Known Member

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    Elizabeth, the cows today aren't the same as the cows in the old days. The genetics have changed dramatically due to the emphasis on high milk production.
     
  11. Tom McLaughlin

    Tom McLaughlin Tom

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    On another list a vet. recommends 2 Tbls. twice a day for 2 weeks before calving of raw organic apple cider vinegar. Also available are fresh cow calcium capsules to be given at calving and calcium paste contained in tubes. I use apple cider vinegar. No milk fever yet. I don't know if it is the apple cider vinegar or the prayers that has helped...only having 5 calves not much of a test.. Tom
     
  12. Elizabeth Dichi

    Elizabeth Dichi Member

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    Thanks, Mary for that info. What do you think about the diet/grain question?

    --Elizabeth
     
  13. MARYDVM

    MARYDVM Well-Known Member

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    You might want to check with an extension agent about the feeding question. Fescue isn't grown in the part of the country I practiced in, so I'm not familiar with it's nutritional characteristics. In general, more dry matter is always better for dry cows, first cut hay rather than second, pasture that's not too lush, no high calcium feeds,etc. If she's not fat you can start giving her small amounts of grain in the days leading up to freshening, but better to let her get started slowly than to rush into top production too quickly.
     
  14. TexCountryWoman

    TexCountryWoman Gig'em

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    As far as the let down reflex and milking goes, I tie the calf with a soft rope halter (after the cow and calf have been separated all day, or for awhile, depending on the age of the calf) and bring the cow into the milking area to her grain and waiting calf. The calf starts to suck and the milk comes down. Tie the calf off on a post, wipe the udder real quick and start milking. If the milk stops flowing, repeat by letting the calf suck for a minute or so and tie it off again where it can't reach the cow and the cow is still interested in her feed. When you get all the milk you want, let the calf have the rest. If your cow gives so much that your calf is really scouring badly (it's not unual and usually goes away) cut back on the cows feed or get another calf. I had a Holstein that I could milk and raise two calves on or not milk and raise three calves on. I realize that Jerseys don't give that kind of volume, but it shows an example of the things you can do with a good dairy cow. I now have her daughter, a Hereford/Holstein cross, and she is a wonderful milkcow too, with excellent temperment.
     
  15. Hello,
    Regarding jerseys.. (Lovely animals)
    They can do well in commercial pasture based farming.
    They're popular in NZ (so are the jersey fresian cross) Because they calve easily, and they're not so prone to calving paralysis.

    Prior to calving (NZ) the pasture is "break fed" ie a ration of pasture each day, and hay is fed to them.
    The hay keeps their tummy full. (it also has vit D)
    A Magnesium powder is spread over the pasture before they eat it.
    There is a link between magnesium levels ..and the incidence of milk fever..also it lowers the liklihood of hypomagnesaemia.

    Yes ..cows ingest adequate calcium prior to calving .. in some their system get lazy.. and in cows with milk fever their systems dont cope when demands for calcium are huge. (just pre calving and lactating)

    This web site may be helpful .. It's a NZ non commercial site: www.2farm.co.nz

    Post calving cows are given a dose of magnesium each day.. usually until the clover in the paddock begins to flower. Apparently Magnesium does not stay in their system for long.

    If the cow is 9 years old she will be very used to the routine of being milked..or feeding a calf...
    Good luck.