As many of us know, cows face an extreme transition challenge after calving. We alter our management efforts to reduce the effect of this slump, therefore allowing cows to transition properly, produce more milk, stay healthy, and get pregnant faster.
This month I would like to talk specifically about the immune system changes during and after calving. Unfortunately, cows go overboard when it comes to immune suppression during the transition period, making our jobs a little more interesting.
So what happens?
During calving and after calving, cows undergo a natural immunosuppression. This immunosuppression is caused by a culmination of negative energy balance, stress, increased progesterone (during pregnancy), and endorphin release for pain relief during calving, which all lead to decrease in neutrophil function. Neutrophils are an important white blood cell, which help actively fight and ward off infections. A decrease in neutrophil function is a major part of the affects we see from a suppressed immune system in cows. This specific decrease in immune system function can leave the cow vulnerable to multiple diseases post-partum (metritis, retained placenta, mastitis, etc).
So what can we do about it?
Negative energy balance and stress will make the immune suppression worse. Ensuring an adequate transition cow nutrition program for your cows is vital to the success of your transition period. Cows from 30 days pre-calving to 30 days post-calving should be given the best facilities and be under the least stress of any animal on the farm. Stress comes from uncomfortable stalls or bedding, inconsistent feed access or overcrowded bunks, overcrowded pens, heat, flies, taxes…Reducing stress factors will reduce the extent of immune suppression during this crucial time.
Imrestor, a new product from Elanco, increases neutrophil function and the number of them circulating in the blood stream. Imrestor has a label claim for the reduction of clinical mastitis during the first 30 days. This is the first product of this kind and there is much research being done on what other benefits this product may have.
We love to talk about transition cows and how to maximize their potential on your farm. Give us a call to continue the conversation.