As my placement year at LLM sadly draws to an end, I would like to share the project I was tasked with over the course of the year, with my chosen title being ‘The effect of Kexxtone boluses on the BHB value of cows and the subsequent incidence of clinical and subclinical ketosis on farm’:

Ketosis on farm

Working with Charlie Mays in Derbyshire, I have greatly expanded my knowledge on ketosis in dairy cattle. As you’ll all know, ketosis is a metabolic disorder where energy demands such as milk production exceed the energy intake of the cow, resulting in a negative energy balance. When this occurs, the cow breaks down her fat into glucose to temporarily reduce the energy gap, resulting in an accumulation of Ketone bodies: acetone, acetoacetate and B-Hydroxybutyrate, which pass into the blood producing ketotic symptoms. Ketosis occurs more often in fat, thin, old, or sick cows as well as those carrying twins. The consequences of Ketosis are both primary and secondary, from reduced milk yield and weight loss to fertility issues such as ability to get back in calf (50% less likely to get in calf on first insemination) and time taken to return to oestrus post calving (approximately 22 days longer).

Each case of ketosis in dairy cattle costs an average of £220, therefore I wanted to see whether using Kexxtone boluses would reduce the incidence of ketosis and subsequently reduce the cost to the farmer. Only approximately 0.5% of cases of ketosis are clinical, however between 10% and 60% of cases are subclinical, where symptoms cannot be seen; therefore, my method of diagnosis for my project was utilising the Beta-Hydroxybutyrate (BHB) values within the blood of the cattle with the assistance from the farmer and Charlie. The study was based on a single farm, in particular the cattle in their ‘transition’ period.

Two groups, each containing 15 cows, were selected for the trial. Both groups were a mix of lactation numbers, body condition scores and cattle with previous deficiencies and illnesses. Group A were given a bolus between 3 and 4 weeks prior to their calving date, and group B were left without. (Please note, in a normal farm environment boluses would be used on a targeted basis (fat, thin, old or twins) however, for trial purposes we did all of group A) BHB bloods were taken from both groups between 5 and 10 days postpartum. These values were compared between each group to identify whether Kexxtone boluses have an effect on the incidence of Ketosis. Within group A, who were given boluses, 13.3% gave sub-clinical readings (>1.2mmol/l); however, within group B, who did not receive boluses, 46.7% gave sub-clinical readings. In this trial, no cattle gave clinical BHB readings (>3.0mmol/l).

The results obtained from this trial have shown that cattle which were bolused with Kexxtone’s subsequently gave a lower mean BHB value as opposed to those who were not given the bolus. This suggests that Kexxtone boluses reduce the risk of the incidence of ketosis. Reducing ketosis within a transition group can successively reduce the cost to the farmer, which is economically sustainable long-term. Using these boluses to reduce Ketosis should also further improve the overall health of the herd by reducing the probability of cattle obtaining secondary diseases such as mastitis and LDA’s as a result of being ketotic.

Please speak to your vet if you would like more information on sub-clinical ketosis and prevention methods.

Thanks Chloe!