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What is milk fever and how to treat it

Milk fever, also known as hypocalcaemia, usually occurs within 48 hours of parturition. This happens when large amounts of calcium are removed from the blood and utilized in the mammary tissue for production of colostrum. Mature cows who are about five years old are more susceptible to milk fever.

If milk fever is affecting more than 10% of your cows, it is a herd issue. You should have the diet and forage analyzed by an expert.

An incident of milk fever can be divided into three clinically identifiable stages. You can identify the first stage by the following symptoms:

  • Head bob
  • Muscle tremors
  • Difficulty in walking
  • Reduced  appetite
  • Reduced rumen activity

The second stage is characterised by:

  • Dry muzzle
  • Sitting, unable to get up
  • Increased heart rate

The third stage has the following symptoms:

  • Lying down
  • Heart rate up to 120 bpm
  • Bloating

Early stages of milk fever can be treated by administering calcium orally. Later stages may need intravenous calcium. Any intravenous treatment should be performed by a qualified veterinarian. Timely treatment is important, else the cow may die due to circulatory failure or respiratory collapse.