Author: Richard Llord (IfA) - April 3, 2018
The key to conquering ketosis lies in combining technology, data, and good stockmanship, believes James Oddie, Director of Farming and Innovations and Operations at Myerscough College. Ketosis, a metabolic disease, causes reduced feed intake, reduced milk production and lethargy which consequentially can lead to further production losses over the whole lactation, fertility problems and increases susceptibility to secondary disease.
The Shepherd Agri support team with James Oddie at Myerscough:
Chris Shepherd, Georgie Haston, James Oddie, Dan Davies, Sean Curwe
The first step is prevention, by identifying high risk cows and feeding these a high energy liquid feed containing monopropylene glycol and glycerol at a rate of 450 ml/day for cows. Dr Graham Shepherd (MRCVS) has identified the following risk factors:
- Too long a dry period (>70 days)
- A difficult calving
- Too fat at drying off ( >3.5 body condition score)
- Excess weight loss at calving ( >0.5 body condition score)
The second step involves daily monitoring all of the cows, in particular cows in the first 20 days of lactation, cows giving over 45 litres and heifers over 35 litres. Myerscough has recently become the first farm in England to invest in AfiLab, which constantly monitors fat, protein and lactose in milk. Increases in the fat/protein ratio of an individual cow can indicate ketosis.
So does James spend all his time looking at the data coming from AfiLab? The reality is that Myerscough is run by AfiFarm 5.2, Afimilk’s herd management software, which automatically collects data from AfiLab, AfiActII (leg based activity monitoring giving heat, health and calving alerts) and AfiWeigh as well as other sources of data and animal events. A quick glance at the home page each morning details which cows need to be checked for breeding, mastitis, digestive problems, ketosis, ... The ketosis alert combines the fat/protein ratio data with:
- Lactation number
- BCS at drying off
- Number of days dry
- Yield (actual and change of)
- Weight loss
The ketosis prevention programme means that there are very few ketosis alerts appearing – an indication of the high welfare status at Myerscough – but James is confident that when an alert comes, the system has identified the sick animal days before even an experienced stockperson would. When an alert occurs AfiFarm’smanagement system is set to automatically segregate these cows out after morning milking for 3 consecutive days to be manually given the glycol drench.