Milking Management to Prevent ketosis in Cows in Transition

Project entitled:

Adjusted Milking during Transition Periods to Better Control the Negative Energy Balance and its Consequences

Simon Dufour, Jean-Philippe Roy, Jocelyn Dubuc, Younès Chorfi, Pierre Lacasse, Débora Santschi


  • At the start of lactation, there is an imbalance between inputs and nutrient needs in dairy cows. This has a major negative impact on disease incidence (e.g., hyperketonemia, mastitis) and on reproductive performance.
  • The conventional approach to controlling this imbalance consists of increasing the energy density of the ration at the beginning of lactation.
  • An alternative approach would be to temporarily decrease nutrient needs through incomplete milking (10L/day) for the first 5 days of lactation.
  • A randomized control trial was completed on 800 cows from 13 commercial dairy farms to evaluate the impact of the practice on the cows’ energy balance and its consequences.
  • Incomplete milking significantly reduced the level of ketone bodies in the blood between the 6th and 15th days of lactation.
  • Cows subject to incomplete milking seem to adopt a desirable resting behaviour (i.e., time lying down) earlier in the lactation period.
  • The impact of incomplete milking on the incidence of infectious and metabolic diseases and on reproduction will be studied in the coming months.



The objective of the study is to measure the impact of incomplete milking of multiparous cows during the first week of lactation on:

  • serum concentrations of ketone bodies;
  • cows’ comfort levels during the treatment period
  • the incidence of major metabolic and infectious diseases (hyperketonemia, clinical and sub-clinical mastitis, metritis and endometritis);
  • reproductive performance;
  • milk production;
  • culling rate.


Results and potential benefits

  • The results of this project will help us confirm the usefulness of an innovative energy balance management method during the transitional period in a commercial context. Our hypothesis is that adjusted milking will temporarily reduce milk production and energy needs in multiparous cows in the transitional period and thereby effectively manage the negative energy balance and acetonemia regularly observed in these animals. In addition, these improvements will not have a negative impact on the cows’ subsequent milk production.
  • We believe that this increased control of the energy balance will help reduce the incidence of many health problems, improve reproductive performance and, ultimately, lead to an increased longevity of dairy herds. The anticipated improved control of health problems and reproductive performance may even result in an increase in subsequent milk production.
  • In addition, we expect that this method will have a positive effect on the profitability of herds, given the minimal cost and major positive impacts potentially associated with this alternative management method during the transitional period.
  • Lastly, the results of this research on multiparous cows will potentially help direct future research to evaluate the impact of the management method on the performance of primiparous cows.


Professionals trained

  • Pierre-Alexandre Morin Master student in veterinary epidemiology.
  • Catarina Krug PhD student in veterinary epidemiology.


Financial contributions

Partnership for innovation in dairy production and dairy processing (EPI2011-2017):

  • Fonds de recherche du Québec – Nature et technologies
  • Ministère de l’Agriculture, des Pêcheries et de l’Alimentation du Québec
  • Novalait