Pregnancy toxaemia

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.

More information

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