Bovis ISSN 2398-2993

Milk fever (Farmer Factsheet)

Contributor(s): XLVets, Vetstream Ltd , Ben Dustan

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  • Milk fever, also known as hypocalcemia, occurs when a cow’s blood calcium levels become dangerously low.  The highest risk period for this occurrence is around calving time. 
  • At calving, the cow may be unable to meet her rapidly increasing requirements for calcium. She may be unable to absorb sufficient calcium from her gut or mobilize enough calcium from her bones to meet the requirements that calving and lactation demands.
  • The average milk yield for the UK national herd has increased by 30% over the last 25 years, and so the demands of lactation now make it extremely difficult for the dairy cow to maintain blood calcium concentrations at calving. More often than not, milk fever is a consequence of production and management issues on farm.
  • The average annual incidence of milk fever in the UK is approximately 5%, but individual farms can have an incidence of 60-70% during certain periods of the year. 
  • The incidence of milk fever can vary widely from farm to farm, between certain periods of the year, between different ages and between different breeds of cow, but it should be possible to maintain the incidence of hypocalcaemia to below 5 cases per 100 calvings. 
  • The management and nutrition of the cow during the dry period has a strong influence on the susceptibility of individual cows to milk fever and as such transition cow management is crucial.
Image courtesy of Peter Jackson
Image shows cow suffering from milk fever

Costs to the farm

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Signs of milk fever

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Which cows are affected?

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Treatment

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Prevention of Milk Fever

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