It’s no secret that hypocalcemia (aka milk fever) is a prevalent concern on most dairy farms. Yet, it is easily preventable with the proper protocols and calcium supplements. Read on to learn what Dr. Lisa Tager, PhD, URUS New Products Manger – Strategic Health and Nutrition, suggests to help reduce the risk of milk fever in cows and what important factors to consider when choosing the right calcium supplement.
The straight-forward facts
What we know about milk fever and calcium supplementation
Calcium is essential to dairy cattle for bone health, metabolic processes and, most importantly, milk production. Immediately before and after calving, a cow’s need for calcium suddenly increases in preparation for milk production. This drastic increase in calcium demand over a short period of time causes a temporary calcium deficiency known as hypocalcemia. This condition may persist and can lead to subclinical or clinical milk fever in cows. It can also lead to an increased risk of dystocia, retained placenta, lethargy, decreased feed intake and ketosis, and ultimately, reduced milk production.
The not-so-secret solution
What is bioavailable calcium for dairy cows?
Oral calcium supplementation is a well-proven strategy for reducing hypocalcemia and its associated risks. However, there are only a handful of calcium sources that provide “bioavailable” calcium to the dairy cow.
The bioavailability of any nutrient is simply how much of that nutrient is actually absorbed from an ingredient out of the digestive system, and into the cow for use. So, when choosing oral calcium as a strategy to reduce hypocalcemia, your choice should be highly dependent on how bioavailable the calcium source is in order to meet the calcium requirement of the cow that just calved.
The catch: Not just any form of calcium will do
Choose your calcium for dairy cows carefully
Because of its high bioavailability of calcium, many products rely on calcium chloride to provide the rapid boost in blood calcium that is needed to counter hypocalcemia in cows and its risks. However, you must take care when using predominantly calcium chloride-based products. Calcium chloride goes into solution rapidly, resulting in a quick increase of available calcium to the animal. While this may be beneficial immediately after calving, it does not address the cow’s calcium needs at the most critical time: 24-48 hours after calving.
Even more concerning is that high concentrations of calcium chloride can damage the mucosal lining of the rumen and abomasum; plus, it can cause a spike in both blood calcium and chloride ion because it is so bioavailable. This spike in blood chloride levels is known to cause metabolic acidosis. The spike in blood calcium levels can cause normal calcium metabolism feedback to be shut down and cause the cow to quickly return to a hypocalcemic state.
Further, to best support the sustained need for calcium up to 24+ hours after calving, calcium chloride-based supplements are administered once after calving with a second – and sometimes third – dose provided 8 to 24 hours later. That means additional animal handling for farm staff.
Give Her the Best Chance with this Calcium Combo
Fight Milk Fever in Cows with 24-Hour Calcium Coverage
Thankfully, there is a solution to eliminate the risks of a calcium supplement made up of predominantly calcium chloride. That solution is to use a calcium supplement that contains a sustained, slow-release form of calcium. Using this form of calcium also eliminates the need to catch the cow again for additional bolus administration.
Factors such as those were top of mind when creating RumiLife® CAL24™ nutritional supplement. What makes the unique, once-and-done administration of RumiLife® CAL24™ possible is that it does not solely rely on calcium chloride as an available source of calcium. Instead, it uses a two-fold approach: 1) it provides a diluted and safe level of calcium chloride for an immediate release supply, and 2) it includes a unique ingredient called CalMin. CalMin is a source of calcium that is nearly 100% bioavailable and releases slowly over 24+ hours.
What gives CalMin its slow-release property? This calcium source is derived from the skeletal remains of a red seaweed algae grown off the coast of Iceland. This gives CalMin a porous, lattice-like structure that protects it from immediate breakdown by the cow’s rumen. Instead, it dissolves slowly, offering a smooth and sustained release of calcium to the animal, meaning you only need to give it once after calving and not handle the animal additional times.
So in total, the careful formulation of diluted and safe levels of calcium chloride alongside CalMin in RumiLife® CAL24™ is a winning combo. It provides the cow with precise amounts of calcium up to 24 hours after calving in just one, two-bolus dose. It’s the simple and effective solution to fighting milk fever in your herd.