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5 Oct 2020

Negative energy balance

In early lactation, until energy intake assures their requirements, dairy cows, especially high producing breeds, enter a state of negative energy balance (NEB), and lose much of their body condition. The NEB is detectable by measuring the body condition score (BCS).

The degree and duration of negative energy balance in early lactation is connected to the relationship between feed intake and milk yield. There is high correlation between loss of condition in the first 3-4 weeks after calving and the number of days until first ovulation (cyclic activity).

Finding the problem

The negative correlation between loss of condition and early cyclic activity after calving and the positive correlation between early cyclic activity and the chance of pregnancy in first service, has been well-documented. Keep an eye on the proportion of cows that are not cyclically active 35-50 days after calving.

In order to evaluate if the loss of condition is an issue, a minimum requirement is that the same person systematically evaluates the body condition of new calvers and cows approx. 30 days after calving.

The occurrence of both digestive and metabolic disorders (e.g. ketosis) and the occurrence of retained placenta and metritis typically affects feed intake and with it the degree and speed of loss of condition in early lactation. Keep an eye on whether the proportion of cows in the herd that fall ill within the first 30 days after calving is increasing.

Action plan and focus areas

  • Make sure that first calvers get a well-balanced diet in terms of energy, protein, minerals, vitamins and composition
  • Ensure sufficient feed intake for first calvers and new calvers in the early lactation period
  • Keep an eye on cows and first calvers with a body condition score <3 at calving and body condition score <2.5 at insemination
  • Pay attention to cows losing  1 body condition score in the first 30 days of lactation

Source: SEGES, Denmark