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Hilmar meetings to focus on optimizing dairy cow health
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Characterized by dangerously low blood calcium levels in cows, subclinical hypocalcemia and its symptoms are not so apparent; however, the disease is still a real threat to herds, sparking a drastic reduction in dairy farm production. An animal health company and a professor who specializes in subclinical hypocalcemia are partnering together to equip dairy producers, veterinarians and nutritionists with the tools they need to mitigate the effects of hypocalcemia in cows with two upcoming dairy meetings in Hilmar.


“Hilmar has a terrific concentration of very good dairy producers and very good veterinary clinics to work with,” said Garret Oetzel, professor at the School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Wisconsin, who is partnering with Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, Inc. to educate producers and veterinarians during the Hilmar meetings. “There are also quite a few jersey herds in the Hilmar area and it is a well known concept to everyone who is involved in the industry that jerseys are a little more susceptible to hypocalcemia.”


Oetzel said that he has partnered with BIVI for about five years to present meetings about dairy cow health — particularly in transition dairy cows just before and after calving — to producers, veterinarians and nutritionists all over the country.


“I just talk about the academic part of things and they get to talk about any product details or sales,” said Oetzel. “We’ve made a lot of interesting discoveries in the last five years about hypocalcemia in dairy cows, how it works and ways to mitigate it.”


Oetzel said that hypocalcemia, which is low blood calcium concentrations in cows around the time of calving, can be made apparent in two forms. The first, also referred to as milk fever, typically occurs when a cow is unable to stand up due to a drop in blood calcium concentrations.


“It is very recognizable by dairy producers,” said Oetzel. “The cow can be treated with an intravenous calcium solution and most of them get up, so it’s a common and largely treatable disease in the clinical form.”


Oetzel, however, will not be focusing on this manifestation of hypocalcemia during the upcoming meetings in Hilmar. Rather, he said the meetings will largely revolve around the second form, known as subclinical hypocalcemia.


“A lot more cows are affected with that,” said Oetzel. “They don’t show any signs, but their performance is impaired. It’s a hidden form.”


During these meetings, dairy producers, veterinarians and nutritionists will learn about the risks associated with subclinical hypocalcemia, health and economic impacts of the disease, and how to manage it.


“We hope that they’ll get insight in general,” said Oetzel. “We really want to create some awareness about the importance of subclinical hypocalcemia. It is a compelling story about the challenges cows face soon after calving. The amount of calcium the cows put out in their milk is phenomenal and a huge adjustment for these cows.


“There is usually a bump in the road along the way and there are different strategies to make it better. We will give them information that they can take home to result in healthier and more productive cows after calving,” continued Oetzel.


There will be two meetings in Hilmar on Jan. 18 at Lola Bistro & Express, located at 19920 1st Street in Hilmar. A dairy producer meeting is scheduled for 12 p.m., followed by a second meeting dedicated to dairy veterinarians and nutritionists at 6 p.m.