Ketosis, or pregnancy toxaemia, occurs in cattle, sheep and goats. It is caused by abnormal metabolism of carbohydrates and volatile fatty acids.
Conditions when ketosis is likely to occur
- Late pregnant cows, ewes and does in the last six weeks of pregnancy grazing dry poor quality pasture (less than 1,000-1,500kg DM/ha), stubbles or green pasture (less than 800kg DM/ha).
- Fat cows, ewes or does (ie fat score greater than 3.5-4) or light cows, ewes or does on very poor pasture.
- Twin-bearing ewes or does.
- Previous history of pregnancy toxaemia.
- Cold wet windy weather.
- Extensive grazing situations where the last third of pregnancy coincides with a late break in the season followed by cold weather leading to little pasture growth.
- Short periods without feed (yarding).
- Stress (due to climatic conditions, handling, being chased or management procedures).
- Heavy worm infestation.
Diagnosing and identifying ketosis
Clinical signs that would lead producers to suspect ketosis include the following:
- Cattle -Pregnant, recumbent or neurological signs such as staggering, aggression, delirium (often associated with another disease).
- Sheep and goats - Pregnant, apparent blindness, staggering, star gazing, drowsiness, convulsions.
Prevention strategies for ketosis
- Avoid grazing cows, ewes and does on pasture when rapid weight loss is likely in late pregnancy or supplement to avoid rapid weight loss.
- Avoid getting cows, ewes and does too fat (ie fat score greater than 3.5-4) or too thin (ie fat score less than 2-2.5) in late pregnancy.
- Avoid handling heavily pregnant animals.
- Cattle Disease Guide from MLA's More Beef from Pastures
- Module 6 from MLA's Going into Goats Guide: A profitable producers' best practice guide
- Department of Primary Industries Victoria publication: Pregnancy Toxaemia in beef cows
- New South Wales Industry & Investment publication: Pregnancy Toxaemia in beef cows
- New South Wales Industry & Investment publication: Goat health - pregnancy toxaemia
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