Aubrey came to the house on Monday morning during milking. “The milk smells like nail polish remover,” she said. We walked out to the barn together and as soon as I opened the door I smelled it: a high, sweetish, chemical note that clashed with the normal soft green and earthy smells of the barn and the cows. “Ketosis,” I said. I had never smelled it in our herd before but it is unmistakable, and common in dairies. It is the smell of cows who are short on energy, burning their fat at a rate too high for their livers to handle, producing a ketone, acetone – the same chemical we use to strip polish from our nails.
Anyone who has gone hard core on the Atkins diet or bodybuilding knows about the metabolic quirk of ketosis, because it can happen to people, too, when they eliminate carbohydrates from their diet in order to burn off fat. In a dairy cow, it happens as her production is peaking. She can’t eat enough energy to keep up with the energy she’s putting out in the form of milk.
I knew what it was, but it didn’t make any sense. Our cows are not humongous producers. Their feed quality is good. They didn’t look depressed but bright and perky, happily eating the hay we put in front of them. Strangest of all, it was not just the one or two cows at the peak of production who had symptoms, but the entire herd, including the bull and the dry cows. There’s no way those animals could be ketotic, unless we were starving them completely. Matt and Mike reported that the previous night’s bales were unusually wet and full of clover, and that the cows had attacked them like stoners on a midnight run to a 7-Eleven…” Continue reading this Essex Farm Note and discover the solution to the mystery!
- Essex Farm: Brittle (www.essexonlakechamplain.com)
- Essex Farm: Rat Patrol (www.essexonlakechamplain.com)
- Essex Farm: Thank You (www.essexonlakechamplain.com)
- Essex Farm: Annual Vet Meeting (www.essexonlakechamplain.com)
- Essex Farm: Calving (www.essexonlakechamplain.com)