Managing Calcium at Calving Time

You might think you don’t have a problem with low calcium in calving cows – and you might be right! But just because you aren’t seeing classic cases of milk fever, it doesn’t mean that you don’t have a calcium issue. At this time of year we see a lot of signs of ‘sub-clinical’ milk fever – these include difficult or prolonged calvings, uterine prolapses, retained cleansings, post-calving infections etc. When calcium levels get low, muscles can’t contract properly – affecting the cow’s ability to expel the calf and her uterus’s capacity to contract back to its normal size. Older cows are more at risk of milk fever and its complications, but we do see cases in cows of any age.

There are many different strategies for controlling calcium levels in calving cows. One of the simplest and most common is to add Magnesium Chloride flakes to water – this helps to ‘prime’ the cow’s body to mobilise more calcium in preparation for the increased demands of milk production. However, this alone is not always sufficient to prevent milk fever.

The content of the ration for close-to-calving cows is important too – grazed grass or grass silage (especially if produced with lots of potassium fertiliser) can put cows more at risk of milk fever. Straw and maize silage are generally lower risk. We would definitely recommend getting some forage analysis done to help flag up if you are likely to have issues. 

High risk or suspect cows can be supplemented with a calcium bolus at the time of calving, although this can create extra work at an already busy time. Different control methods suit different farms, but if you want more advice please just have a chat with one of the vets. 

It’s also worth stocking up on Calciject 5 well before calving – as well as using it to treat typical ‘milk fever’ cases, a bottle under the skin can provide a good boost to cows that have had long or difficult calvings, or are suffering from complications post-calving. If you would like training on how to safely administer calcium give us a call.