The question is not whether we should pay attention to these non-specific signals of trouble but what should we do when they occur? My suggestion is to take an inventory of all predisposing factors that lead to any cow problems and correct them. These are numerous as the diagram accompanying this article indicates and they are often interactive, usually with several of these factors occurring simultaneously. Most common is the overstocking of pens, which creates excessive competitive pressure for essential resources like feed, water and resting space. This is often further complicated by stalls that may be too small or uncomfortable and/or compromised by poor sanitation due to inadequate alley scrapping or bedding changes. Recently it also has been observed that too frequent pen moves that disrupt cow social hierarchy contribute to fresh cow health problems. Removal of all these unnecessary stressors makes it possible for most fresh cows to negotiate calving and initiate lactation uneventfully without post-calving disease.
Treatment is not a victory; it represents a significant loss–a loss of time, money, cow productivity and welfare. My advice is to get ahead of any need for treatment. Application of new precision dairy technology offers you an opportunity to respond at the very first non-specific signs of imminent trouble. Act to remove any of the predisposing causes of sub-par performance or disease. Unstressed healthy cows rarely need treatment intervention. They are more productive, have higher fertility, and enjoy greater longevity. Preventing clinical disease altogether is the only real victory... and everyone wins–the cows, the dairy farm, the processor and the consumer, and since healthy cows are also more efficient, the environment wins too.