What Can Rumination Time Tell Us About the Blood Calcium Status of Early Lactation Dairy Cattle?

Subclinical hypocalcemia (SCH) affects over 40% of multiparous dairy cows in early lactation. Arising from a drop in blood calcium (Ca) after calving due to the increased demand for Ca to support lactation. Delayed or prolonged episodes of SCH are associated with decreased production and feed intake, increased risk of additional diseases, and herd removal. Previous reports have shown that daily rumination time (RT) is positively correlated with blood Ca in the early lactation period. As many farms have already implemented sensors to track RT of cows, the results of our study can be incorporated into the preexisting software as an alarm, providing a practical method of identifying cows experiencing delayed or prolonged SCH. By identifying these cows either before or as they are experiencing reductions in blood Ca, more targeted treatment and management strategies can be implemented to reduce the risk of additional disease development, thus improving cow health and productivity as well as farm profitability.

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