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Milk Fever

Keeping Does Healthy During Gestation

What is milk fever?

Milk fever, also known as hypocalcemia, is a severe calcium deficiency, most often occurring in the first week of lactation.

Risk Factors

  • High producing dairy cow
  • Jersey or Gurnesey
  • Third lactation or higher
  • Previous Milk fever

Signs and Symptoms

The signs and symptoms of milk fever can be characterized into 3 stages. The final stage is severe and the prognosis is not good.

Stage 1

  • Standing and ambulatory– Early signs of poor muscle control, twitching, head bobbing, tremors, restless,

Stage 2

  • Cannot stand– Loss of muscle control preventing them from standing or even laying properly, they will often tuck their head into their flank or exhibit a S shaped curve to the neck, cold extremities (ears), low body temperature, dry muzzle, high heart rate, gastrointestinal stasis (lack of bowel sounds, bloat, loss of sphincter tone), urinary retention.

Stage 3

  • Loss of consciousness- lying flat out, bloat


  • Acidogenic Diet (More for large dairy that mix rations) or Lower Calcium diets (keep them off fresh grass) during the three weeks before calving. This lower calcium intake creates a negative calcium balance which mobilizes calcium from the cows bones and allows the cow a chance to respond better to high calcium demands.
  • Delay or reduce milking for the first few days postpartum– This maintains pressure on the udder which decreases milk production and thus decreases calcium outflow.
  • Prophylactic treatment with oral calcium of at risk cows immediately before calving and 1-2 more doses postpartum 12-24 hours apart.
  • Feed x-zelit to pre fresh dairy cows– x-zelit is a synthetic binding agent that reduces the blood phosphorus level prior to calving which subsequently increases the blood calcium level. (source). I have heard great things about this product, but when looking to purchase it myself, it comes in large quantities and is not really suited for the single milk cow owner. That being said many dairy farms are using this dietary supplement so you may be able to buy a single quantity off of a dairy farm near you.
  • Apple Cider Vinegar– I have heard many claims that apple cider vinegar can be used as a preventative measure for milk fever (as well as a host of other things). I have used apple cider vinegar with a sick cow to help her digest her food more fully, so I was curious about the milk fever claims. It turns out it is a bit of a controversial claim. There is no actual scientific studies that I can find that support apple cider vinegar as a preventative measure for milk fever, but there are many first hand accounts from farmers of its success (which in my books is just as reliable). In any case, feeding your milk cow apple cider vinegar prior to calving is not going to do any detriment. From what I can see from the forums and unscientific posts that I studied on the subject, the correct dose would be 60ml apple cider vinegar twice daily in the 2 weeks prior to calving. This vinegar can be combined with their food or added into their water and most people rave that their cows love it (when i fed it to Sukey, she always gobbled it up).
  • Proper nutrition and access to loose minerals


Treatment For Stage 1

  • Preventative care.
  • Oral Bolus Calcium (also comes in gel, paste, and liquid form, but tablet bolus is safest if available to you). If your cow is already exhibiting signs of milk fever, you may wish to go straight to IV calcium. During milk fever, the digestive system is affected, meaning that oral calcium may not be absorbed properly. If she is showing signs, be ready to administer IV calcium.

Treatment For Stage 2-3

  • IV Calcium

The post Milk Fever first appeared on Cheese From Scratch.


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