Survey on the occurrence of milk fever in dairy cows and the current preventive strategies adopted by farmers in New South Wales, Australia

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Abstract

Objective

The aim of this study was to investigate general and specific strategies adopted by New South Wales (NSW) farmers to prevent milk fever (MF) and its occurrence at calving within their dairy herds.

Design and methods

Of 300 dairy farmers in NSW randomly chosen and sent questionnaires, descriptive analysis of the returned data was performed for 102 questionnaires. To identify the various strategies used to prevent MF and its incidence, farms were classified as having a low (<3%) or high (>3%) incidence of MF. The data were analysed using a multivariable logistic regression model and backwards stepwise elimination to identify significant preventive strategies adopted by farmers having a low or high incidence of MF.

Results

Based on the 102 responses, the median incidence of MF in the NSW dairy region was 3% (range 0–30%). The farms with low MF incidence practised specific MF control strategies, such as feeding dry cows separately, grain supplementation and feeding a low-potassium ration before calving and using a commercial ration mix immediately after calving. The time to first milking post-calving was on average 13.6 h on the low-incidence farms compared with 21.1 h on the high-incidence farms.

Conclusions

The low median incidence of MF (3%) in NSW was probably related in part to awareness of the importance of feeding a low-potassium, high-grain diet before calving. However, the incidence of MF was high on the farms not practising specific MF preventive methods.

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