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What is negative energy balance?

From around three weeks before, to a number of weeks after calving, cows use more energy than they can take in. This negative energy balance means the cow pulls energy from her fat stores: which can result in ketosis4.

If not prevented in the Vital 90 Days, hidden ketosis can impact on the cow’s health, fertility and milk2.

Clinical or Hidden ketosis?

Only a tiny amount of ketosis causes obvious signs. Most ketosis in a herd is ‘hidden’ also known as sub-clinical.These cows are sometimes known as 'slow' cows after calving.

Clinical vs Subclinical

The consequences of hidden ketosis

Hidden ketosis increases the chance of diseases such as left displaced abomasum5, metritis and cystic ovaries. This impacts the health and productivity of the cow. The average cost of hidden ketosis is £220 per cow2.

Con of ketosis

Reducing the risk

Step 1: Monitoring
The amount of hidden ketosis occurring in the herd, and the economic impact of the disease is often underestimated. Simple reports using NMR or CIS data are now available which can tell us the about the level in the herd.

Step 2: Risk factors
While it is important to understand the herd level, prevention should focus on obvious risk factors we can look for.
Twin carrying cows

SOFT cows are all at greater risk of hidden ketosis. Other cows to focus on include cows that transition during times of heat stress, increased stocking density or cows with dry periods in excess of 70 days.

Step 3: Prevention
Measures taken to address the overall level of ketosis in priority order would include3:


[1] Duffield_2009_Impact of hyperketonemia in early lactation dairy cows. JDS 92 571-580
[2] Raboisson et al., 2015. The economic impact of subclinical ketosis at the farm level: Tackling the challenge of
over-estimation due to multiple interactions. Preventive Veterinary Medicine 122 (2015) 417–425
[3] McArt et al., Epidemiology of subclinical ketosis in early lactation dairy cattle. J.Dairy Science. 95 :5056–5066
[4]Gerloff BJ. Vet Clin N Am 2000; 16 (2): 283–292;
[5] Macrae, A.I. et al. Prevalence of clinical and subclinical ketosis in UK dairy herds 2006-2011. World Buiatrics, Lisbon, Portgual, 2012