Monitoring the transition period for health and fertility

Published 25 June 14

Cow dry matter intake drops on average by a third in the last three weeks before calving and this is one of the single biggest risk factors making the animals susceptible to disease and infection according to Dr. Stephen LeBlanc. Normally, the focus regarding transition cows is mainly on nutrition and rightly so, as ration formulation is a key factor in a successful transition management programme.

However, dry matter intake also plays a vital role and steady feed intake is critical in the days before and around calving. The best ration in the world will result in reduced dry matter intake if there is insufficient space for all transition cows to eat at once.

Recent studies demonstrate a link between reduced dry matter intake and immune function. These studies suggest that some uterine health disorders such as metritis or endometritis are associated with poorer immune function and negative energy status that begins prior to calving and extends into early lactation.

Subclinical ketosis in the first or second week after calving is associated with increased risk of displaced abomasum, metritis, clinical ketosis, endometritis, prolonged time to first ovulation, increased severity of mastitis and lower milk production in early lactation. Boosting a cow’s immune system after calving and early detection of infectious or metabolic disease in transition cows is challenging.

To learn more from recent studies on the metabolic challenges faced by transition cows, the role of feed intake and practical steps that can be taken to improve transition management, listen to Dr. Stephen LeBlanc’s webinar on ‘Monitoring the transition period for health and fertility’.

Dr. Stephen LeBlanc is associate professor at the Ontario Veterinary College at the University of Guelph in Canada. He received his BSc in Animal Science from McGill University and a Veterinary Degree and Doctorate of Veterinary Science from the University of Guelph.

After five years of private practice, he joined the faculty at Guelph where he teaches veterinary and agriculture students and provides clinical farm services. Stephen’s research focuses on transition cow metabolic and reproductive health and management.