Metabolic

Overview

Metabolic disease refers to a group of conditions caused by deficiencies of certain essential nutrients resulting in disturbance of the animal’s normal metabolic processes. These conditions are multifactorial and commonly occur at times of high physiological stress or demand for these nutrients with late pregnancy and early lactation being key times. The signs of these conditions can overlap and look similar and it is not uncommon for more than one disease to occur at the same time further complicating the picture. For this reason it is important to understand the causes of these diseases because the prevention and treatment are different.

Milk Fever

Overview

Also called hypocalcaemia, milk fever is due to low blood calcium. Calcium is important for many bodily processes including heart and muscle function and the animal’s body works very hard to maintain blood levels in the normal range. Late in pregnancy when the foetus is growing rapidly and early in lactation, the cow’s or ewe’s calcium requirement increases significantly and she needs to maintain blood levels by mobilising calcium from bone. Milk fever occurs if this mobilisation process is too slow to keep up with need. Older and/or more productive animals are more prone and stress, sudden changes to grazing, lush, low roughage feed or plants high in oxalates (chemicals which bind calcium to form insoluble salts) can all predispose to milk fever.

Affected animals can show signs such as a stiff or staggery gait, muscle tremors, weakness, tendency to lie down on their chest or their side, difficulty in getting up, depression, bloating and ultimately, death.

Preventing Milk Fever

Late in pregnancy, cows and ewes should be kept on low calcium feed to encourage their own ability to mobilise their bone stores more efficiently. At this time avoidance of any form of stress is important. Good quality hay and/ or grain should be supplied. After calving or lambing calcium intake should be increased and supplements such as loose licks can be provided and grazing of pastures higher in calcium (e.g. clover) is recommended. Vitamin D encourages absorption of calcium and mobilisation from bone and can also be given to cows before calving.

Treating Milk Fever

Treatment needs to be given as soon as possible but happily response is often very quick and complete. The treatment is calcium borogluconate solution (Flopak 4 in 1) by subcutaneous injection over a number of spots on the animal and is readily absorbed into the bloodstream. It can also be given intravenously under veterinary supervision if deemed necessary. As stated, affected animals will improve quickly although several treatments may be required. General nursing is also important such as keeping the animals in a warm, dry place, close to supervision and preventing them from lying flat on their side to avoid bloat. Access to clean water and good feed and calcium supplements all help.


Flopak 4 in 1 Product Profile

Contains:

  • Calcium 27.5g/L (equivalent to 330gL calcium borogluconate)
  • Magnesium 4.7g/L
  • Phosphorus 12.2g/L
  • Glucose 182g/L

Dose rate:

By subcutaneous injection (or by intravenous injection by or under veterinary supervision).

Cattle:

  • small cows: 500mL,
  • Heavier cows: 500-1,000mL

Ketosis

Ketosis or pregnancy toxaemia is essentially a deficit in energy manifested as a fall in blood glucose at a time when the animal has an increased energy demand such as late pregnancy and early lactation. If the animal cannot or does not eat enough to meet demand their demand they use other resources for energy, notably body fat and this leads to the production of large amounts of chemical byproducts called ketone bodies which are toxic in excess. Animals on poor feed, in poor body condition, undergoing stress of any cause, have increased energy demand because they are pregnant with twins or large foetuses or if they are, on the other end of the spectrum, over fat are more prone to this condition.

Affected animals appear depressed, reluctant to eat or get up from lying down, can show neurological signs such as apparent blindness, staggery gait, tremors, “star gazing” and may progress to death. Ketosis can be present with other metabolic diseases as well as infections such as mastitis or metritis.

Preventing Ketosis

The key is ensuring cows and ewes have access to adequate, good quality feed either grazing or supplements at calving or lambing. Also animals should calve or lamb in optimum condition scoring, neither under or over-conditioned.

Treating Ketosis

Treatment aims at boosting blood glucose levels. Ketol (propylene glycol) given orally over the next 5-7 days is absorbed and metabolised to glucose in the animal’s liver is an effective to do this. Good quality hay or supplements should also be provided for longer term recovery. If necessary, an intravenous infusion of glucose can be given by a veterinarian for a quicker boost to blood glucose although this only lasts a short time and does not replace the above treatment.

Ketol Product Profile

Ketol contains:

  • Propylene glycol 832g/L
  • Choline chloride 20.6 g/L
  • Cobalt sulphate 1.10g/L

Dose rate.

By oral drench
Cattle: 250mL morning and evening for 2 days then 125mL morning and evening for next 3 days

Grass Tetany

Overview

Grass tetany is also called grass staggers or hypomagnesaemia and as this name indicates, is due to low blood levels of magnesium. Magnesium is essential for normal muscle and nerve function and a deficiency can occur if the animal does not get enough in the diet or if absorption is interfered with by other minerals notably potassium (pastures heavily fertilised with potassium fertilisers for example). Grass tetany is often seen at times of increased demand such as late pregnancy or early lactation and low intake when animals are grazing rapidly growing, lush green grass or young cereal crops. As with other metabolic diseases, older animals or those experiencing stress can be more prone

Animals with grass tetany show stiff, staggery gait, tremors, apparent blindness, excitability, tendency to lie down and paddling or convulsing, depression and drowsiness. Death can ultimately occur but in some cases sudden death is the first and only sign

Preventing Grass Tetany

Prevention is a combination of providing magnesium supplements such as loose licks or magnesium-treated fodder and the timing of calving or lambing to times when less risky pastures are available and reducing soil potassium levels.

Treating Grass Tetany

Treatment is a magnesium solution (Flopak 4 in 1) by subcutaneous injection over a number of spots on the animal and it can also be given intravenously under veterinary supervision if deemed necessary. A veterinarian may also decide to give affected animals a more concentrated magnesium solution by injection . Magnesium supplements (e.g. loose licks) provide ongoing magnesium supply and minimise recurrence of symptoms.


Flopak 4 in 1 Product Profile

Flopak 4 in 1 contains:

  • Calcium 27.5g/L (equivalent to 330gL calcium borogluconate)
  • Magnesium 4.7g/L
  • Phosphorus 12.2g/L
  • Glucose 182g/L

Dose rate:

By subcutaneous injection (or by intravenous injection by or under veterinary supervision)

Cattle:

  • small cows: 500mL
  • Heavier cows: 500-1,000mL