Onion Creek Ranch, Lohn, Texas
Suzanne W. Gasparotto, Onion Creek Ranch, Lohn, TX
Lohn, Texas
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MILK FEVER

Milk Fever is not really a fever but is actually hypocalcelmia. This *mis-naming* of the illness makes diagnosis somewhat confusing.

If a doe is going to become hypocalcemic, it will occur around kidding time. She will become uninterested in eating, may be mildly bloated or constipated, have difficulty walking and/or rising from a sitting position, have a decrease in body temperature, and may have weak labor contractions. Sometimes the only symptom is hind foot dragging. Rear body parts feel cold to the touch. If the doe cannot get up, set her upright on the sterum and pull her head to one side; this position should reduce the possibility of aspirating rumen contents that may be forced backward by bloating.

The illness is complex to explain in layman's terms because it involves hormonal changes that occur in the mobilization of calcium within the doe's body when she begins to produce milk. Certain feeds rich in calcium, most notably alfalfa and peanut (legume) hays, are believed to be the culprits. These feeds contain calcium in excess of what the doe needs at kidding time. This excess calcium sets off a "chain reaction" causing calcium to be deposited into her bones when her body needs to be releasing it for use in milk production. Simply put, Milk Fever is a failure of the body's system to activate calcium mobilization and not a deficiency of calcium reserves.

The best way to prevent Milk Fever is to lower calcium intake during the last 30 days of pregnancy. In most herds, this can be done by eliminating legume hays (alfalfa and peanut) from the doe's diet. This puts the doe's body in a slightly negative calcium position, allowing the hormonal system to mobilize calcium reserves. Normal kidding is accompanied by very mild hypocalcemia which is not noticeable if the calcium balance in the doe's body is on target.

If legume hays are the only source of forage for feeding does in the last 30 days of pregnancy, then no calcium supplements should be fed. Pregnant does on grass hay need to be fed a grain supplement containing 0.5% dicalcium phosphate or equivalent. Producers are reminded that any changes in feeding regimen must be done gradually or rumen problems are likely to occur.

Treatment involves intravenous injection of 50-100 ml of 25% calcium borogluconate solution, with additional administration subcutaneously (SQ). For those uncomfortable with IV treatments, oral drenches are available and quite inexpensive. CMPK and MFO are two over-the-counter Milk Fever products that can be purchased through mail order houses like Register Distributing (goatsupplies.netfirms.com) and Jeffers (1-800-JEFFERS). If caught early, Milk Fever is readily treatable. If allowed to progress untreated, Milk Fever can result in enterotoxemia, mastitis, retained placenta, and death.

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Important! Please Read This Notice!

All information provided in these articles is based either on personal experience or information provided by others whose treatments and practices have been discussed fully with a vet for accuracy and effectiveness before passing them on to readers.

In all cases, it is your responsibility to obtain veterinary services and advice before using any of the information provided in these articles. Suzanne Gasparotto is not a veterinarian.Neither tennesseemeatgoats.com nor any of the contributors to this website will be held responsible for the use of any information contained herein.

The author, Suzanne Gasparotto, hereby grants to local goat publications and club newsletters, permission to reprint articles published on the Onion Creek Ranch website under these conditions: THE ARTICLE MUST BE REPRODUCED IN ITS ENTIRETY AND THE AUTHOR'S NAME, ADDRESS, AND CONTACT INFORMATION MUST BE INCLUDED AT THE BEGINNING OF THE REPRINT. We would appreciate notification from any clubs or publications when the articles are used. (A copy of the newsletter or publication would also be a welcome addition to our growing library of goat related information!)

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