“She’s A Poor Doer…”

As dairy caregivers, all too often we see “Poor Doer Syndrome.”
As dairy caregivers, all too often we see “Poor Doer Syndrome.”
(Dr. Eric Rooker)

“She just seems broken Doc,” Chris said. “She came in ok, cleaned, milked well for the first 4 or 5 days and now this is her.”  I’m standing in Chris’s little red barn of 55 cows looking at a 5-day fresh cow that just isn’t right. She looks depressed, lethargic and has droopy ears. The unfortunate thing is, there’s nothing clinically wrong with her, no metritis, D/A, pneumonia or ketosis.  She’s just off.

As dairy caregivers, all too often we see “Poor Doer Syndrome.”  These are cattle that struggle for unknown reasons until they subsequently develop an infectious disease, a surgically correctable condition or are culled. Theoretically we “fix” them, but what if I told you that a depressed, lethargic attitude was a sign of a deeper problem; something known as sub-clinical inflammation.

Anyone who has witnessed a birth knows that it is a traumatic event. The female goes through rapid uterine, mammary, and hormonal changes, each of which necessitate significant tissue remodeling. These changes often are caused by sub-clinical inflammation or cause sub-clinical inflammation to onset within the cow  This type of inflammation is a natural and necessary process meant to prepare the dam for rearing offspring as well as activate the immune system to fight off common transition diseases.

However, if allowed to occur for a longer duration than physiologically normal, sub-clinical inflammation can alter metabolic functions, inhibit mammary gland development, foster infectious disease onset, and even alter mood. These changes can cause a vicious cycle in which the dam continues to draw more and more energy reserves for the immune system which increases her negative energy balance causing her to mobilize fat from her body reducing body condition score (BCS) and inhibiting the natural clearance of the inflammation. The result of this cycle being a cow that is predisposed to every common transition disease as well as decreasing milk production.

Controlling sub-clinical inflammation is a difficult process and is not standardized  If we attempt to mitigate too much inflammation, we risk shutting down the normal processes that transition the cow into lactation, but if we do too little we risk “Poor Doer Syndrome.” Current research suggests the sweet spot lies in the first 2 days of lactation  Researchers have found that using a treatment as simple as a standard aspirin dose 2x per day for the first 2 days in milk appears to have significant positive benefits such as reduced somatic cell count, improved 1st service conception, reduced days open, decreased BCS losses and improved milk yields.

With a simple low-cost fix such as this, could we begin to see the death of “Poor Doo’er Syndrome?”


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