Blood testing for BHB alone is not sufficient to prevent ketosis

Veterinarians who exclusively test blood for beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB) miss a large number of cows that are indeed at risk of subclinical ketosis. British research shows that not all dairy cows have elevated levels of both BHB and non-esterified fatty acids (NEFA) in their blood.

A British study examined how many cows experience a negative energy balance (NEB). More than 69,000 dairy cows were examined on over 1,700 British dairy farms. NEB was determined by measuring the levels of BHB, non-esterified fatty acids (NEFA) and glucose in the blood.

Most studies on NEB focus only on BHB. However, this study revealed the following:

  • 15% of all cows had elevated levels of both NEFA and BHB;
  • 60% of all cows had either elevated levels of NEFA or BHBZ, but not both.

This study shows that in only one in four cows is it sufficient to test for one parameter instead of both. You miss fewer cows at risk of subclinical ketosis when you measure both BHB and NEFA compared to when you measure only one of the two.

The whole study can be found here.