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					                 DAIRY HERD HEALTH AND
                  PRODUCTIVITY SERVICE
Newsletter 2008, Q1                                                           February 2008
Blood test results this winter…                              “typical” profile of poor energy balance in the
                                                             fresh calvers only (which is usually a
If you can remember back that far, autumn
                                                             consequence of feed intake problems).
2007 was not that bad….. In fact, it was a bit
                                                             The root causes of most of these energy
deceiving – with many people keeping cows
                                                             problems have been with poor quality silages.
outside well into November (even December in
                                                             However, careful supplementation has improved
some cases). Unfortunately, a lot of cows at
                                                             matters – although the approach has been
this stage lost a large amount of body condition
                                                             different on each individual farm. Using
whilst out at grass – and we have seen a number
                                                             molasses to help energy supply to the rumen,
of tests this winter where the cows have been
                                                             protected fat to increase the energy density
in very poor body condition as a result. Cows
                                                             of the diet and chopped straw to balance wet
below body condition score 2.0 out of 5.0 are
                                                             silages have all worked on different farms –
always going to struggle – with little reserves
                                                             depending on the main constraint identified……
left for milk production, and even less available
                                                             There have been a number of herds that
for future fertility.
                                                             tested in December which were low in
                                                             Effective Rumen Degradable Protein (ERDP),
                                                             although these have been much less common
                                                             than in 2006/07. There have also been a
                                                             similar number of herds where a diagnosis of a
                                                             lack of Digestible Undegradable Protein (DUP)
                                                             was made – this was based on normal energy
                                                             and urea-N results in the blood test, and
                                                             subsequent response to supplementation with
                                                             DUP (using protected soya).
                                                             Fluke has also reared its head on some farms –
                                                             possibly no surprise given the wet conditions
                                                             last year. As ever, diagnosis is not
Of the farms that did house the cows and get                 straightforward…... In one herd, it was linked
them settled onto winter rations, the common                 to a number of non-responsive downer cows in
complaint this year has been that the cows are               early lactation – a syndrome that has been
not milking as well as hoped for – with the cows             reported previously in Scotland by SAC.
usually 2 – 3 litres down on expectations. The
                                                             Did you know?
most common reason for this from the
                                                             DHHPS vets do a number of talks to both vets,
metabolic profile results has been poor energy
                                                             farmers and advisors throughout the year all
balance in the cows. However, what has been
                                                             over the UK – on topics ranging from dry cow
unusual this year is that this has shown up in
                                                             management, fertility, lameness, mastitis, on-
most metabolic profiles as affecting both the
                                                             farm workshops, blood sampling etc. Funding is
early and mid lactation groups. The problems
                                                             also available to help with the organization
have been with the diet, rather than the more
                                                             costs. Get in touch to find out more.
   Dairy Herd Health and Productivity Service, Division of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, Royal (Dick) School of
         Veterinary Studies, University of Edinburgh, EBVC, Easter Bush, Roslin, Midlothian EH25 9RG

Tel - 0131 445 4760                      Fax - 0131 445 5728                   E-mail DHHPS@ed.ac.uk

                                    www.vet.ed.ac.uk/dhhps                                                        1
                 DAIRY HERD HEALTH AND
                  PRODUCTIVITY SERVICE
Flock health            and      productivity
                                                             control over concentrate feeding is possible.
service                                                      For example, it is possible to use blood testing
                                                             to reduce concentrate levels in single-bearing
Yes – you have read that correctly! As well as
                                                             ewes, so helping to reduce feed costs. It
our main work with dairy herds, we also do
                                                             should be pointed out that these techniques
quite a bit of blood testing of pregnant sheep
                                                             can still work well in flocks that do not scan.
during the spring. In fact, a lot of the initial
                                                             As well as energy, protein status is also very
work looking at biochemical markers of
                                                             important for milk production, and so ensuring
nutrition in ruminants was first developed in
                                                             adequate colostrum to the lamb. Blood testing
                                                             monitors both ERDP and longer-term protein
The main nutritional risk period in sheep is
                                                             status. Especially in housed sheep, protein
during late pregnancy – specifically the last 6
                                                             supply can be low due to the use of straw or
weeks of pregnancy when ¾ of the lamb growth
                                                             poor quality hay – both of which are low in
occurs. The combination of the increasing
                                                             protein. Minerals and trace elements can also
energy demands of the lambs, and the reduced
                                                             be checked if required.
feed intake in late pregnancy can lead to major
                                                             Blood sampling should be performed 2 – 4
problems – the most severe manifestation of
                                                             weeks before lambing is due to start. Any
which is twin lamb disease. However, poor late
                                                             further away from lambing than this, and the
pregnancy nutrition can lead to a whole range
                                                             ewes have yet to reach the high risk period –
of subclinical problems such as poor lamb
                                                             any closer, and there is not enough time to
birthweights, high levels of lamb deaths, poor
                                                             make any adjustments.
milk production by the ewe and poor lamb
                                                             If the ewes are separated and fed according to
growth rates.
                                                             the numbers of lambs expected, at least 5
                                                             ewes in each group should be sampled. If they
                                                             have not been scanned, then a random selection
                                                             of 15 – 20 ewes should be sampled.
                                                             We have special input forms for sheep tests,
                                                             which can be either downloaded from the
                                                             website or a hard copy posted. The cost is £60
                                                             per sheep test (for up to 20 sheep). If you
                                                             require any further information, please do not
                                                             hesitate to contact the office.

                                                             Suckler herd testing
                                                             We also do testing in beef herds during late
Angus Russel and co-workers in the early 1980s
                                                             pregnancy to check on nutritional status. With
developed well established techniques for
                                                             feed costs being such an important aspect of
monitoring energy status during late pregnancy
                                                             herd profitability, testing can prove invaluable
using β-hyroxybutyrate values. In fact, if the
                                                             to monitor nutrition at this critical time.
sheep have been scanned and are fed according
to the number of lambs, then very precise
   Dairy Herd Health and Productivity Service, Division of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, Royal (Dick) School of
         Veterinary Studies, University of Edinburgh, EBVC, Easter Bush, Roslin, Midlothian EH25 9RG

Tel - 0131 445 4760                      Fax - 0131 445 5728                   E-mail DHHPS@ed.ac.uk

                                    www.vet.ed.ac.uk/dhhps                                                        2

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