Like a slow leak from a car tire that eventually turns into a flat, subclinical ketosis and milk fever can slowly drain profits from your dairy.

Some research suggests that up to 40 percent of fresh cows may be hindered by subclinical ketosis, points out Laurie Winkelman, dairy nutritionist and technical specialist with Vita Plus.


Traditionally, subclinical ketosis is assessed for individual cows using urine strips or milk powders that measure ketones, including beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHBA). In the last few years, use of the Precision Xtra Meter® has become more common as this cow-side tool measures BHBA levels through a simple blood test.

Sampling for BHBA can help you catch and treat subclinical ketosis sooner, often requiring less aggressive treatment.

Unlike subclinical ketosis, we have no quick cow-side test for detecting subclinical milk fever. However, progressive nutrition practices can have significant effects, Winkelman says.

Subclinical milk fever is typically defined as a blood calcium concentration less than 8 mg/dl. Cows will typically show clinical signs of milk fever when blood calcium falls below 5 mg/dl.

Don’t let subclinical issues drain your herd’s health or farm profits. Work with your nutritionist and veterinarian to develop your strategies and get your fresh cows off to a good start.