Nursing Downer Cows

A recent conference session with Victorian vet Phil Poulton, PhD, highlighted the importance of nursing care given to downer cows.  A recently published study of Phil's showed 43% of cows with good nursing care recovered after 10 days - regardless of the initial cause of being down - compared to only 6%  with poor nursing care.  Downer cows are prone to a host of secondary problems including nerve damage, dislocated hips, muscle and spinal problems, which can be minimised when nursed appropriately.

Good nursing care includes:

  • Providing shelter from cold and rain (ideally in a clean, dry shed)
  • Thick bedding of hay, straw, sawdust, rice hulls or sand
  • Barriers to prevent crawling and walking (if unable to walk when lifted)
  • Lifted 1-2 times daily when able to support some weight, lowered when unable
  • Rolled several times daily to take pressure off lower leg
  • Access to high quality feed and water
  • Teat disinfection twice daily, milking if udder leaking
  • Moved using front-end loading bucket, not hip lifters.

For more detailed information see the Dairy Australia website or contact your prime vet.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Endometritis

These cows typically have a creamy pussy discharge when 'Metrichecked' and may outwardly look to be in good health.  Even just a few flecks of pus on a 'Metricheck' device indicate that infection is present.  The longer these second stage infections remain undetected the greater the chance the cow will become infertile.

Long standing uterine infections cause permanent uterine scarring.  Recent trials have shown that those cows treated 1-3 weeks post calving have far better reproductive results than cows treated 4-8 weeks post calving.

The majority of uterine infections will have become undetectable 4 weeks post calving, even when using a 'Metricheck' device.  The infection however remains present deep inside the uterus.  These 'hard to detect' cows still have very poor fertility.  Early checking will considerably increase the chance of finding these 'dirty' cows.

All 'At risk' cows (RFM's, dead calvings, assisted calvings, vaginal discharge, twins) should be treated with a 'Metricure', 2-4 weeks post calving.

The rest of the herd should be 'Metrichecked' 7-28 days post calving.  Careful planning must be done to ensure calving groups can be identified for checking.  A sensible rational would be to identify cows calving up to the mid point and 'Metricheck' these 1-2 weeks after this date - e.g. August the 20th-25th.  The third quarter to calve is then marked again and checked 3 weeks later on about the 5th of September and the final quarter around another 3-4 weeks later on about the 5th of October.

Metricheck devices may be purchased or lent or you may use your vet to detect and treat during the same milking.

Calf Rearing Consultancy

The first of July has ticked over and our thoughts turn to getting ready for next calving.  Soon we will welcome a new batch of calves, representing a huge financial investment in the genetics of our herd.  If you have new staff involved in rearing your calves this year, are you confident they can........

  • Safely stomach tube a calf to ensure they are getting essential colostrum within 12 hours?
  • Safely care for and prepare your young calves for transport, maximising their welfare and meeting all the new requirements?
  • Differentiate a hernia from an infected naval and know what to do with each?
  • Spot that first scoury calf and know how to effectively halt the spread of the bugs?

If the answer to these, or any other calf related questions is no, then the Veterinary Centre is here to help.  We have ateam of veterinarians with a keen interest in calf rearing, headed up by veterinarian Nicola Neal, who has nearly 10 years of large scale calf rearing experience.  Utilising the latest ground breaking NZ research into calf health, we can provide tailored on-farm calf rearing training for staff, or individual management level advice to get your sheds and systems humming.  To get your calves off to a flying start and all your staff on the same page, give the Veterinary Centre a call today.