Experts challenge current understanding of transition dairy cow health

For dairy cows, the transition period—the time between a cow giving birth and beginning to produce milk—brings the greatest possibility of health problems. The current widespread belief is that the effects of excess nonesterified fatty acids (NEFA) in the bloodstream and the ensuing hyperketonemia during this period, coupled with low levels of available calcium, are largely responsible for disorders such as mastitis, metritis, retained placenta, and poor fertility. Much attention has therefore been devoted to regulating NEFA and calcium levels in transition cows—yet all these efforts have not made the transition period less of a challenge to cows and, hence, to farmers, with approximately 75 percent of disease occurring during the first months postpartum. Dairy producers literally pay the price in terms of reduced milk production, costs of treatment, early culling of cows, reduced reproductive abilities, and animal welfare.

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