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How milk testing can combat cattle disease

FOSS presentation at ICAR, 10 June 2015, Kraków, Poland

A study summarizing progress with a new cattle disease-screening tool will be presented by FOSS at the forthcoming ICAR (International Committee for animal recording) technical workshop.

The tool allows milk testing laboratories to screen for signs of ketosis in dairy cattle - a metabolic disease that can reduce milk yield by over 500 kg of milk per cow per year.

Introduced by FOSS in 2007, the screening is giving milk-testing laboratories a new service option to offer their customers as a part of routine milk testing. The screening test is now well established in the Netherlands, France, USA and Canada with many other countries coming on board.

The Canadian experience

Among other countries, the study examines positive results from Quebec, Canada.  A ketosis screening service has been offered by the Valacta milk-testing laboratory as an option for farmers in the region since April 2011. Over 54% of cows are now screened for ketosis and the prevalence of ketosis has declined steadily from 26% in 2011 to 15% in 2014.

The screening has also helped to chart the negative impact of ketosis on dairy herd production. Cows showing early signs of ketosis produced 2.4 kg less milk on the day of the test. The milk from these cows had a higher fat and lower protein and urea content, as well as higher somatic cell count indicating possible mastitis. Reproductive performance was also negatively affected.

How it works

Beyond the normal tests for fat, protein and lactose, the Fourier Transform InfraRed (FTIR) technology behind modern milk testing equipment can reveal many other valuable data. Screening for signs of ketosis based on the detection of ketone bodies occuring in milk is just one of these new possibilities.

Ketosis occurs in dairy cattle when energy output for milk production is too high relative to energy input from feed and uptake from fat deposits. Sub clinical ketosis is the hidden form of the disease.

It occurs when energy uptake from fat deposits is too high, as is the conversion of fat to glucose in the liver. As a result, acetone and beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB) are excreted as residues. An indication of levels of the acetone and BHB residues in milk can be provided by the FTIR technology used in analytical instruments such as the MilkoScan FT+ Analyser. This allows the milk testing centre to provide the farmer with valuable information to tackle an otherwise undetected problem and to take appropriate actions to improve animal health.                                                                                

The presentation entitled “Global experience on ketosis screening by FTIR technology” will be presented by Daniel Schwarz, Cattle Disease Specialist FOSS on Wednesday, 10 June 2015, 10.30 AM at the ICAR technical workshop: Holiday Inn, Wielopole 4, Kraków.

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