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Animal Reproduction Science 96 (2006) 331353

A herd health approach to dairy cow nutrition and production diseases of the transition cowF.J. Mulligan a, , L. OGrady a , D.A. Rice b , M.L. Doherty aa b

School of Agriculture, Food Science and Veterinary Medicine, University College Dublin, Ireland Nutrition Services International, Randalstown Co., Antrim, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom Available online 8 August 2006

Abstract This paper presents a practical, on-farm approach for the monitoring and prevention of production disease in dairy cattle. This integrated approach, should be used in an interdisciplinary way by farmers, veterinarians, nutrition advisors and other relevant professionals for the improvement of animal health and welfare and producer protability. The key areas that form the basis for this approach are body condition score management, negative energy balance, hypocalcaemia, rumen health and trace element status. Monitoring criteria are described for each of these key areas, which when considered collectively, will facilitate the assessment of dairy cow health with regard to clinical and subclinical disease. The criteria, which are informed by published scientic literature, are based on farm management and environmental factors, clinical data, milk production records, dietary analysis, and assessment of blood and liver concentrations of various metabolites or trace elements. The aim is to review the efcacy of production disease control measures currently in place, and if necessary to modify them or formulate new ones. 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.Keywords: Dairy cow; Herd health; Production disease; Nutrition

1. Introduction The nutritional status of dairy cattle has a signicant inuence on many of the transition cow production diseases that result in nancial losses and reduced welfare. From a nancial perspective, producers are not only faced with the cost of treating dairy cows for specic production diseases, but they often incur additional consequential costs. For example, dairy cattle that developThis paper is part of the special issue entitled Nutrition and Fertility in Dairy Cattle, Guest Edited by A. Evans and F.J. Mulligan. Corresponding author. E-mail address: Finbar.mulligan@ucd.ie (F.J. Mulligan). 0378-4320/$ see front matter 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved. doi:10.1016/j.anireprosci.2006.08.011


F.J. Mulligan et al. / Animal Reproduction Science 96 (2006) 331353

clinical hypocalcaemia (milk fever) are eight times more likely to develop mastitis (Curtis et al., 1983). Similarly, cows with sub-clinical ketosis are eight times more likely to develop left displaced abomasum (Le Blanc et al., 2005). Apart from the losses arising from the clinical diseases, the losses arising from insidious subclinical disease in herd mates, together with the proven deleterious consequences for reproductive performance, claw health and udder health, make the prevention of these nutritionally related production diseases of paramount importance, for nancial and animal welfare reasons. Therefore the concept of a herd health or preventative approach to managing dairy cow nutrition and production diseases has great potential to assist farmers by providing increased protability and reassurance regarding the health status of the farm livestock. This will increase transparency, trust and acceptability on issues of animal health and welfare with the general public and consumers of dairy products. Integrated herd health and production management programmes that would bring information from various facets of dairy farming technology into one integrated dairy farming advisory service have been proposed (Brand et al., 1996; Kelly and Whitaker, 2001). This integrated multidisciplinary or team approach in preventative dairy herd health is employed with the emphasis on protability and sustainability as opposed to increased production per se. Based on this principal, the recent development of the dairy herd health initiative in Ireland is a multi-stranded project, including efforts by a range of bodies to coordinate programmes of preventive animal health (More and Barrett, 2005). It includes at its core, a programme of continuing education for veterinarians based on integrated modules such as bio-security, calf health, health economics, reproductive performance, lameness, nutrition and production disease, parasite control, and vaccination strategies. This article presents a practical, on-farm approach to preventing and monitoring production diseases of the dairy cow by the use of optimal nutrition and management throughout the whole lactation cycle but with specic focus on the transition period. The scientic basis for the methodology used in this approach is presented. This preventative and monitoring approach has been sub-divided into ve key areas: (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) Body condition score management (BCS). Negative energy balance (NEB). Milk fever and subclinical hypocalcaemia. Rumen health. Trace element and antioxidant status.

Table 1 Target incidence rates for clinical production diseases Clinical condition Milk fever Downer cow syndrome Hypomagnesaemic tetany Ketosis Left displaced abomasum Right displaced abomasum Low milk fat syndrome (milk fat < 2.5%) Retained placenta Lameness Target incidence rate 05% 1.4, milk protein < 2.9%, milk fat > 4.8% and milk lactose < 4.5%. The key monitoring criteria for assessment of early lactation cow energy balance in this article are for a nadir milk protein percentage of >3.05 (Von Tavel et al., 2005) and for a milk fat:protein ratio of 0.5 units BCS loss in early lactation BCS at breeding % of early lactation cows with milk/milk protein > 1.5 % of early lactation cows with nadir milk protein < 3.05% % of early lactation cows with nadir milk lactose < 4.5% Weekly decline in milk yield (%) post-peak Trough space for transition cows Percentage refusals accepted in transition cow trough Post-grazing sward height for early lactation cows % cows 214 days pre-calving with blood BHB > 0.6 mmol/ % cows 214 days pre-calving with blood NEFA > 0.4 mmol/l % early lactating cows with blood BHB > 1.4 mmol/l % early lactating cows with blood NEFA > 0.7 mmol/l 95% 2.75 3.0 2.5 20 mmol/L plasma >0.4 g/ml of plasma 0.81.4 g/ml of serum >100 mg/kg dry liver 70200 ng/ml of whole blood 670 ng/ml of serum 2.0 mol/l 33.5 g/ml periparturient cows Kincaid (1999), Mee (2004b), Whitaker (1997) NRC (2001) Kincaid (1999) Kincaid (1999) Kincaid (1999) Whitaker (1997), Mee (2004b) Mee (2004b), Kincaid (1999) Whitaker (1997) NRC (2001) Kincaid (1999) NRC (2001) Kincaid (1999) Paterson and MacPherson (1990), Rice et al. (1981) Weiss (1998)

GSPx Inorganic iodine T4 Zn

Mn MMA -Tocopherol

and Wilkinson, 2002; NRC, 2001). However, such an appearance may also be caused by ill-thrift. Furthermore, Underwood (1981) has described anaemia, fragile bones, cardiac failure in young animals and reproductive inefciency characterised by depressed expression of oestrus behaviour in cows as a result of copper deciency. In the experience of the present authors, lameness associated with physitis in weaned dairy calves has been a common manifestation of Cu deciency. Other trace elements such as selenium and Vitamin E exhibit classical deciency signs such as nutritional muscular dystrophy (NRC, 2001), while iodine deciency results in the classical deciency symptoms of enlarged thyroid glands in the calf together with weak or dead hairless calves (NRC, 2001; Van Wuijckhuise et al., 2003). It should be noted that while classical deciency signs may be used to implicate trace element or antioxidant deciency, herd health problems related to trace element deciency are often reported in their absence; the amount of trace elements needed for optimal immune responses may exceed the amounts required to prevent classical deciency signs (Xin et al., 1991) and the addition of organically complexed trace elements to diets with already adequate levels has shown benecial effects on reproductive performance (Campbell et al., 1999). 7.2. The use of animal tissue samples for assessment of Cu, I and Se status The diagnosis of trace element deciency is often reliant on blood or liver analysis (Table 6). Whitaker (1997) described optimal values for plasma Cu of 9.4 mol/l and for serum of 7.5 mol/l. However, Mee (2004b) and Husband (2006) have reported higher reference ranges for plasma Cu concentration and it is known that liver copper stores may be depleted whilst plasma or serum Cu concentrations are maintained. Therefore the measurement of liver Cu concentrations by liver biopsy may be required to detect subclinical deciency (Chamberlain and Wilkinson, 2002; Whitaker, 1997). NRC (2001) described liver Cu concentrations of below 20 mg/kg on a

F.J. Mulligan et al. / Animal Reproduction Science 96 (2006) 331353


DM basis or 5 mg/kg wet weight as the cut-off value for Cu deciency. Apart from blood and liver Cu concentrations, the concentrations of ceruloplasmin and superoxide dismutase in blood have also been used to assess Cu status (Ward and Spears, 1997). For the assessment of Se status in dairy cattle, blood, milk and liver Se concentration are often used along with glutathione peroxidase (GSPx) (Knowles et al., 1999; Mee, 2004b; Whitaker, 1997). Grace et al. (2001) have shown close relationships between blood Se and milk Se and between milk Se and GSPx status of New Zealand dairy cows treated with Se injection. Since Knowles et al. (1999) reported that the response patterns of dairy cattle to Se intake in terms of whole blood GSPx and Se are very similar it is likely that both are equally accurate criteria for assessing dairy cow Se status. However, Chamberlain and Wilkinson (2002) suggested that the measurement of serum GSPx may be more accurate than red blood cell GS