CanWest DHI

Ketosis/BHB Testing Services

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Ketosis is a common metabolic disease that affects cows in early lactation. Affected cows may exhibit clear clinical signs of ketosis (off feed, production drop, firm dry feces, occasional nervous signs) but very often, signs will not be noticeable and ketosis will be at the subclinical level. Studies have shown that subclinical ketosis results in lower milk production, higher incidence of mastitis and metabolic diseases as well as a negative impact on reproduction, all adding up to significant cost.

The only way to monitor subclinical ketosis in the herd is to test for it. On farm tests (blood, urine, milk) have been available for years and now through the DHI lab. Although individual cow treatment of ketosis is possible and usually effective, prevention, through optimal management of the dry and early lactation period is by far most economical and should be a priority for all herds.

How does the DHI test work?
The Ketoscreen test from DHI uses the regularly collected DHI samples. It is therefore very easy and inexpensive. The test measures the level of beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB), a ketone body, which when found in high level is an indication of the risk for ketosis. Results from the DHI milk test have been shown to correlate well with on farm BHB tests.
Since the first few weeks of lactation is the critical time for ketosis, herd results are reported in 2 categories; 5-21 Days in Milk and 22-42 Days in Milk. The percentage of cows with elevated BHB levels and considered ‘Positive’ for ketosis is reported, along with a herd trend of the last 10 DHI tests, as well as 3 month period trends. Individual results of cows between 5-90 DIM are also reported.

How can the DHI ketosis test help?
As the name implies, the Ketoscreen service from DHI is meant to be a herd screening tool that provides an overview and trend of the ketosis status and risk in the herd. Results can then be used to help assess and monitor the dry and early lactation periods, with a focus on prevention and reduction of ketosis. Without regular measuring, it is difficult to monitor and make improvements.

As a general indication:
<5% Positive     Low-Very Good
5-10%     Low-Good
10-20%     Average-Improvements Possible
20-40%     High
>40%     Very High

It is important to remember that due to the DHI testing frequency, many cows will not be in the critical early lactation period (5-15 DIM) where testing and treatment for ketosis is ideal. Therefore Ketoscreen should not be used to replace on-farm ketosis monitoring programs, but rather as a herd indicator to complement routine on farm cow testing.  Producers should work closely with their advisor(s) to develop their ketosis prevention, monitoring and treatment program as well as test results’ interpretation.

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