Test blood for BHB and NEFA in the first two weeks of lactation

Within two weeks after calving or in the last week before calving are the best times to test blood for beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB) and non-esterified fatty acids (NEFA). So says Julia Moorhouse, Head of Veterinary Services at Map of Ag in a webinar on the transition period.

The impact of NEFA and BHB

Measuring NEFA levels in the blood is used to investigate whether there is fat mobilization before calving. This is a significant cause of ketosis and fatty liver disease. Cows with elevated NEFA levels are significantly more likely to have postpartum disorders, reduced fertility and lower milk production. A similar risk is observed in cows with elevated BHB levels, indicating subclinical ketosis. Both conditions have demonstrable consequences for the health and productivity of dairy cows.

Moorhouse assumes elevated NEFA levels to be >0.35 mmol before calving and >0.6 mmol after calving. For elevated BHB levels, Moorhouse assumes >0.96 mmol.

The best timing for measurement

The optimal time for measuring both NEFA and BHB is within the first two weeks after calving. Moorhouse’s advice emphasises not only the importance of measuring these values, but also the importance of regular monitoring during the transition period. By doing this, farmers and veterinarians can intervene on time and optimise the health and productivity of the herd.

Monitoring with BoviLab

For veterinarians and dairy farmers, monitoring NEFA levels may be a barrier if there are no obvious problems due to too many NEFA. Testing for BHB after calving is easier, faster, and cheaper with a ketone meter. With BoviLab, this barrier belongs to the past. BoviLab is the first usable device that can measure both NEFA and BHB at the same time.