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Preventing Inflammation in Transition Cows

It’s a fact in the life of any dairy cow that her immunity levels are depressed at calving. To counter that, she might have an inflammatory response to a disease challenge.

But that inflammatory response is a double-edged sword, particularly if it becomes acute, says Barry Bradford, a specialist in dairy nutrition, metabolism and endocrinology at Kansas State University.

Acute inflammation is linked with ramped up neutrophil (white blood cell) activity and function to fight off disease. But it’s also linked to less milk production, poor fertility and greater risk of cows leaving the herd, he says. In some studies, cows with high levels of inflammation produced 20% less milk.

The key to preventing acute inflammation goes back to sound transition cow management. Plus, there is research on new tools that can aid in lowering the risk of acute inflammation, Bradford says.

He recommends the following five steps:

1. Manage body condition score

“Managing body condition is the best proven way to minimize the risk of transition cow disorders,” Bradford says. It’s critical to consider the percent of dry cows outside the acceptable range of body condition score (BCS). All herds will have some cows with BCS greater than 3.5. But if the average BCS is 3.0 and one third are greater than 3.5, there’s a problem, he says.

2. Transition cow housing

Adequate stalls and bunk space in pens that are not over-stocked will ensure dry cows have access to lying space and feed. If pens are overstocked, submissive cows will have less access to both and are susceptible to more problems at calving. Also ensure dry cows are cooled during periods of heat stress to prevent excess standing, lameness and feed intake issues.

3. Antioxidants

Consider using antioxidants, such as Vitamin E, selenium or non-nutritive antioxidants, during the transition period to combat oxidative stress. In one study where cows were given three treatments of Vitamin E before calving, the treated cows had fewer retained placentas and stillbirths than untreated cows.

4. Anionic diets

Anionic dry cow diets have been proven to lower cases of milk fever. “Farms that do not suffer from milk fever should not be complacent,” Bradford says. “The calcium threshold for negative responses to hypocalcemia has been raised by recent powerful studies (8.6 mg/dL).”

5. Tweaking immunity/inflammation

The use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as sodium salicylate, has proven beneficial in cows in their third or later lactation. These older cows responded with 21% more milk and 30% more milk fat than untreated controls. A trial with another NSAID, meloxicam, responded with 10% more milk over the lactation and greater survival rates. The downside: The use of NSAIDs to treat non-specific postcalving inflammation is currently not FDA approved.

Another option is to feed plant-based polyphenols. One study, feeding a supplement containing green tea and curcuma extract during the close-up period through nine weeks in milk, reported a 10-lb. increase in milk production during weeks four through eight of lactation. Another option is to supplement transition diets with flaxseed or commercial products that supply omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, or yeast products designed to boost immunity. 

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Pain Management In Horses

Pain is a kind of perception, much like tasting or smelling. Every painful sensation is created by the brain to alert the body of a harmful situation. Pain is initiated by receptors at nerve endings, which detect a hazard and send a message thru the nerves to the spinal cord. The spinal cord then sends the signal to the brain, which processes and translates the threat into pain. These three physiological stages of pain have become the main targets of pain medication.

Local anesthetics target receptors at nerve endings to relieve pain in a particular area from where it originates. The anesthetics block nerve transmission to the central nervous system by preventing sodium ions, necessary for a nerve impulse, from traveling across nerve cell membranes and into the nerve cell. Local anesthetics are often used for “blocking” a nerve to diagnose and localize lameness. They can also be used to numb areas for invasive procedures such as surgery. The two most common local anesthetics used in equine veterinary medicine are lidocaine and mepivacaine.

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), including phenylbutazone (bute), banamine, firocoxib (Previcox) and ketoprofen, are the most common class of drug used for pain management in horses. In general, NSAIDs alleviate pain by blocking an enzyme called cyclooxygenase (COX). These enzymes produce prostaglandins (hormones) that promote inflammation, pain and fever. However, NSAIDs often come with adverse side effects due to the diversity of biological processes that are reliant on prostaglandins. In particular, one function of prostaglandins is to act on parietal cells in the stomach wall to inhibit acid secretion. This is one reason why gastric ulcers are often caused by NSAID use.

The last class of pain killer we will discuss are the centrally acting analgesics, which work by altering the way the pain signal is received and processed by the brain. These pain relievers are generally very potent and also act as sedatives. In horses, the most common centrally acting analgesics used are detomidine (Dormosedan), butorphanol (Torbugesic) and morphine. These are used for relieving pain and providing sedation for minor surgeries or husbandry procedures. Another commonly used centrally acting drug is methocarbamol (Robaxin), which is used as a muscle relaxant to treat skeletal muscle injury, strain or spasm. Methocarbamol may also result in mild sedation, but it’s effect is far less dramatic than detomidine, which requires the horse be monitored until the sedation has worn off.

In addition to these traditional veterinary medicine approaches to pain management, several alternative methods are emerging. These include acupuncture, physical therapy, herbal treatments and nutraceuticals. Acupuncture originated in Chinese medicine and has been used to treat every type of pain. Its success seems highly dependent on the horse and acupuncturist. Physical therapy for pain management includes the use of therapeutic lasers, ultrasounds and magnets, as well as more simple approaches such as applying a cold compress. Herbal supplements and nutraceuticals are also becoming more common. Several supplements that utilize devil’s claw, white willow bark, turmeric, or other herbs can now be found in many feed or tack stores. In addition, many nutraceuticals, such as glucosamine and hyaluronic acid for joint pain relief, are also available.

Whether you are using a traditional or alternative pain management routine, it is a good idea to keep a record of what medications were administered, how much was administered, the way it was administered and the time it was administered. If the horse is at a showing or showing in the near future, you should also check with your respective show organization (i.e. USEF, AQHA) to make sure you follow the drug and medication rules. If you haven’t, take a look at the rules at the beginning of each year. You may find some things on there you don’t expect to see. Also, remember that pain relievers often mask pain that is presenting itself for a reason!

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Coopers Piliguard Pinkeye Vaccine

Piliguard Pinkeye-1 Trivalent is a vaccine for aid in the prevention of Pinkeye associated with infection by Moraxella bovis strainsin cattle.

Piliguard is the only commercially available against Moraxella bovis, the primary cause of pink eye in cattle. It is a single dose vaccine that aids in the prevention of pink eye associated with infection by Moraxella bovis.

An aid in the control of Pinkeye in Cattle associated with infection by Moraxella bovis strains


  • For use in healthy cattle to aid in the prevention of pinkeye associated with infection by Moraxella bovis strains.
  • Can be used in cattle as young as 2 weeks old.

Use & dosage

  • Shake well before use and keep thoroughly mixed during use.
  • A single 2ml dose is given via subcutaneous or intramuscular injection. A 15mm by 16G needle is recommended.
  • Vaccine should be given 3-6 weeks prior to the onset of pink eye season on the recommendation of your veterinary advisor.
  • Before vaccine is injected, the proposed site of inoculation on the animals skin may be cleaned by swabbing with cotton-wool soaked in an antiseptic solution, such as methylated spirits.

Trade Advice

Category: Specialty Vaccine
Species: Beef and Dairy Cattle
Active: Inactivated cultures of Moraxella bovis isolates in an oil emulsion adjuvant.
Pack Size: 20mL, 100mL
Withholding Periods: Meat = Nil, Milk = Nil, ESI = Nil.
Storage: Store between 2°C – 8°C (Refrigerate. Do not freeze)
APVMA: 60802

User Safety Statement:
In the event of accidental of self-injection seek prompt medical attention.