cows; weaning; cattle; calves

Cattle production: Your cows and milk fever

Question: After my cow calved, she was unable to get up. In spite of giving her fodder, she died. What causes this and what can I do to prevent the situation in future?

It is possible that even a cow in good condition can suffer from milk (lacteal) fever, that she will just lie down unable to stand up, and that such a cow can die.

This happens when the foetus takes too much calcium and other essential elements such as magnesium and phosphorus from its mother’s body and so causes low levels of magnesium and/or phosphorus in the mother’s blood.

If you inject Calcitad or M F C calcium borogluconate with magnesium hypophosphite and dextrose, the cow may start to get up even before she has been given the whole bottle of medicine.

Also read: Why would cows not calve every year?


Milk fever can be prevented it you give your cattle quality licks throughout the year, plus an energy lick and a protein lick during the winter and a phosphate lick during periods when the grass is green or 2 months before cows are due to calve.

  • Put licks in separate troughs so you can more easily identify the lick that is needed at a specific time.
  • Cattle in very poor condition are more likely to lie down and not be able to rise, and may die after calving.
  • It is always better to provide quality feeds and licks for your cattle when veld grasses are very dry during late winter.
  • Even after rain it will take another month before the grass becomes green enough to benefit your cow’s health.
  • In such circumstances, I suggest that you give the cow a mixture of maize meal and lucerne to eat.
  • A cow usually eats 10 kg to 12 kg of fodder a day, of which 1 kg to 2 kg can be maize meal.

Also read:
Crop production: Lucerne – top-quality feed for your animals

  • This article was written by Cois Harman and first appeared in Farming SA.

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