Calving can take its toll on a cow. Just like a human, when a cow calves, they undergo stressful situations. It’s our job to try to minimize these stresses as much as possible. We calve our cows inside to virtually eliminate the chance of a cow needing assistance going unnoticed. Our cows close to calving eat a different ration (feed) formulated to get them geared up to enter the milking string. Upon calving they enter a post fresh group to give them more space at the feed bunk (some boss cows try to keep sluggish or more timid cows away).
Despite all of our best efforts cows can still end up with problems. This past week we’ve been helping along a girl who came down with ketosis. Ke-what-is? Ketosis is a metabolic problem that occurs in some fresh cows. When a fresh cows shows signs of ketosis she can be very unsteady and have a very odd, almost sickly sweet smell to her breath.
When #95, our girl in question, began to increase production after calving her energy intake was lower than the energy she was putting out to make milk. Most likely she went off feed some time around calving. When this occurs long enough the liver begins to metabolize her fat in to sugars that she could use for energy. While these ketones give her the energy she needs, they also make her sick. Sluggish, depressed, wobbly and just miserable feeling all around.
Ketosis is a metabolic problem that we are able to treat by supplementing sugars. When we give the sugars for energy, her liver calms down. The ketones stop being produced and she gradually begins to feel better.
To treat #95 I gave her an IV of dextrose. What, cows get IV’s? Just like us sometimes cows need some extra fluids for a pick me up. To help ensure she was getting the sugars she needed, I also gave her an oral dose of proplyne glycol (also a sugar). It is metabolized and her body breaks it down more slowly.
When a cow is ketotic they don’t like to eat. In order to help prevent further tummy problems #95 received probiotics to keep her tummy “bugs” going. We are also able to give her supplemental nutrition via a stomach drench. Think Ensure for cows. Cows don’t really like to drink this lovely green concoction (it’s mainly an alfalfa powder with vitamins and minerals) so we carefully deliver it with a tube and pump it in to her stomach.
Yesterday the vet was here to double check and make sure #95 was on the right track. He thought we were over the hump and should start to see improvement soon. This is great news as she needs to feel better and I think we are starting to wear out each others company!