Left displaced abomasum (LDA) is an unfortunate reality in all dairy herds. University of Guelph research suggests there may be two key factors associated with a cow's short-term recovery after LDA surgery.

The study followed 176 cows treated for LDA in four different veterinary practices. Of all study cows, 19% were removed from the herd 60 days or less after their LDA surgery (36% left within a year), representing a financial loss in the form of veterinary bills, lost milk yield and reduced beef price – if the animal is eligible for market.

Cows having a difficult calving and later developing an LDA were 13 times more likely to leave the herd within the first 60 days after a surgery compared to cows calving normally. This is likely related to the host of metabolic issues and diseases accompanying difficult calving that might complicate recovery.

Cows having a blood BHBA level lower than 1.2 millimoles/liter (mmol/L) at LDA diagnosis were three  times more likely to be culled within the first 60 days after surgery. Cows with a LDA generally have ketosis. The presence of a high BHBA indicates dairy cows are mobilizing body reserves in response to negative energy balance; the LDA is a complication of ketosis. The researchers hypothesized animals not having a high BHBA might have gone off feed for a different reason, such as injury or lameness. After the LDA surgery, animals going off feed for other reasons may have lower chances of recovery, especially if the original injury/condition wasn’t addressed during the course of treatment.

Herd managers can use this information to make informed decisions about cows diagnosed with LDA before proceeding with surgery. BHBA levels could be used in conjunction with veterinary advice, milk records and intake/ health information to evaluate probability of recovery after surgery and the best course of action for the cow. Furthermore, BHBA levels in LDA cows could be used as a tool to troubleshoot on farm. A herd with a high percentage of low-BHBA levels in LDA cows may have less apparent issues hindering intake in the transition pen.

Liz Remick, Miner Institute