“Monitoring udder fill and appetite in fresh cows is the best tool I have for judging the success of my transition program,” says Walt Guterbock, manager of den Dulk Dairy in Ravenna, Mich. If you monitor these daily, you will be able to detect problems before clinical signs appear.

To monitor udder fill, he observes fresh cows before they enter the parlor. If a cow’s udder appears slack, as opposed to tight, or the teat cistern does not look full, it indicates she is getting ill, he explains. The same is true with appetite. Changes in how robustly a cow eats, as well as how much she eats, are good indicators of cow health.