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Diseases

All about
Milk fever

Read the most important facts about milk fever and learn how you can avoid the severe consequences of this metabolic disease.
Milk fever (hypocalcemia) is one of the most common metabolic diseases in dairy cows. Triggered by calcium deficiency or a disturbance in the calcium metabolism, milk fever often develops in the difficult phase after calving, but can also indicate husbandry problems.

Scientific research shows that nearly half of the cows in dairy barns are affected by clinical or subclinical calcium deficiency, which negatively affects early lactation.

In addition to immediate, economic consequences of clinical or subclinical disease progression such as increased labor, milk loss, reduced fertility, treatment costs, or loss of the animal, milk fever can also lead to secondary diseases such as ketosis, mastitis, retained placenta or abomasal displacement, resulting in severe health consequences as well.

Economic impact of milk fever

The costs of milk fever can vary greatly depending on the severity and course of the disease. For clinical milk fever, scientific literature indicates follow-up costs of € 300 to more than € 600 per case and an average disease rate of up to 20% of the herd. If a herd of 100 animals is assumed to have about 10% sick animals per year, the costs can rise to over € 4200. While the follow-up costs of subclinical milk fever are stated to be somewhat lower at an average of around € 113, up to 50% of the herd can be affected, resulting in even greater economic damage.
Breakdown of cost for milk fever
  • Treatment costs, veterinarian, medication: € 40,-
  • Milk loss per individual case: approx. 450kg or € 176,-
  • Extended calving interval: € 40,-
  • Replacement cost: € 75,-
  • Additional time & labor: € 18,-
This results in total costs of € 371,- per case of disease. With smaXtec, disease costs can be reduced by € 144,60. According to surveys among smaXtec customers, a reduction of almost 40% in overall disease costs can be achieved with the smaXtec system.

Detect milk fever significantly earlier - thanks to smaXtec

Preventative measures, early detection and early treatment are crucial to ensure the health of your herd and your business success.
The cause of milk fever is insufficient calcium in the blood. Calcium is necessary to contract muscles and performs an important function in the nervous system. A calcium deficiency therefore manifests itself through symptoms such as:
  • Increased respiratory rate
  • Slow and unsteady movement
  • Reluctant feeding, low water intake
  • Lower body temperature
  • Reduced activity
If a cow does not manage to switch her metabolism quickly enough after calving to meet the increased calcium requirement at the beginning of lactation from the body’s own reserves, the calcium level in the blood drops. In subclinical courses, there is a risk of a decline in milk yieldduring lactation. As a result of the negative energy balance, diseases such as ketosis may subsequently develop.
If clinical milk fever is not treated in time despite visible symptoms and the resulting reduced feed intake, the persistent calcium deficiency can lead to the loss of the animal.
How do you detect milk fever with the smaXtec system?
Thanks to its highly precise and continuous temperature monitoring (±0.01°C relative accuracy), smaXtec immediately detects if the body temperature drops further after calving – a typical sign of milk fever. The system reliably supports you here and also monitors other important parameters such as rumination, drinking behaviour and activity, helping you to quickly detect milk fever and to react immediately.
If there is a further drop in body temperature after calving (message ‘decrease in temperature’), there is a risk of milk fever and the animal lying down. Here it is necessary to take measures quickly to prevent negative effects or death of the animal.
With continuous health monitoring from smaXtec, you not only know when your animals are calving, but also have more time to take precautions. With the curve diagramfrom smaXtec, you can also accurately follow whether the cow’s metabolism is getting back on track after calving and ensure a good start to lactation.
Monitoring animal health with smaXtec offers a decisive advantage: using the curve diagram in the smaXtec Messenger or in the smaXtec App, you always have an overview of cow health over a longer period of time. This makes management much easier, especially in the transition phase, and helps you to recognise subclinical disease progression before consequences such as a steady decline in milk performance arise.
Example:
This example clearly shows reduced rumination already before calving. Shortly after calving, the smaXtec system signaled a new drop in temperature with the message ‘Decreased body temperature’, and only half a day later the message ‘reduced activity’ indicated that the cow was lying down due to acute milk fever. Fortunately, the farmer was able to get the cow back on track by giving her calcium, so that her rumination returned to normal in the following days.

What to do in case of milk fever?

We recommend keeping a close eye on the animals in the period around calving and taking precautions in good time. In this way, you can reduce the risk of milk fever in advance and call in a veterinarian if necessary.
Measures taken by our customers in case of milk fever
  • Observe animals carefully and react quickly in case of symptoms
  • Administer calcium in the form of a bolus or infusion
  • Supply rapidly available energy (e.g. propylene glycol or glucose)
  • Drenching
  • Consult your veterinarian
Subclinical courses are relatively common and can impact both herd health and the economic success of your operation.

Through early treatment you can avoid:
  • Milk loss
  • Ongoing and gradual performance drop
  • Consequential diseases such as ketosis, mastitis, postpartum behavior or abomasal displacement
  • Fertility problems
  • Down cows
  • Death of the animal

Milk fever in later lactations

Scientific studies have demonstrated that the risk of calcium deficiency and susceptibility to milk fever increases significantly with the age of the cows and the number of lactations.
Despite the increased risk of milk fever in later lactations, about half of the farms surveyed have not yet integrated the prevention of calcium deficiency into their workflows. This makes continuous health monitoring with smaXtec even more valuable to ensure the health and fertility of your herd over many lactations.

How our customers benefit from early milk fever detection?

In the past, we had problems with milk fever. Now, we can give calcium to these animals in good time if they need it, because we can see a drop in temperature in the curve diagram very quickly. As a result, we don’t have animals with milk fever anymore.
Carsten Braack, farmer from Germany
Feature Image_Carsten Braack
Peter und Henning Thomsen_web
Before, we often had problems with milk fever after calvings, but not anymore. With smaXtec, we can monitor the cows’ drop in body temperature very precisely during calvings and can administer calcium boluses where necessary. This gives us a good start into lactation, and the cows are very grateful for that.
Thomsen farm, Germany
When I get a calving alert, the calf arrives within 8 – 10 hours at the latest. That simplifies management a lot. If rumination drops before calving and the temperature also drops, then we actually already know that we have to take precautions – with a calcium bolus or something else. Then the cow doesn’t lie down either.
Johann Aringer, farmer from Germany
Johann Aringer
Christoph Harrer_vorschau
The early notifications are great: for example, I can prevent a cow from starting into lactation with mastitis. Apart from that, you can also see very clearly if a cow already has metabolic problems before calving and then gets milk fever after calving. You can see this very well in the diagram and administer a calcium bolus.
Christoph Harrer, farmer from Germany

You also want to detect and treat milk fever earlier?

With the right technological support from smaXtec, detecting milk fever earlier and improving animal health on the farm is very easy.

The result: profitable AND sustainable dairy farming!
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