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  • Henry Wilson, Shropshire

    Shropshire dairy farmer Henry Wilson has successfully reduced ketosis and improved pregnancy rate within his all-year-round calving herd since changing the diet to deliver more energy to his transition cows.

    Henry moved to three-times-a-day milking in March this year; yields peaked at 39 litres, up from 32 litres, but the move presented challenges to fresh cow health.

    “We saw an increase in ketosis and excess weight loss in fresh cows,” Henry explains.

    Ketosis occurs when cows enter negative energy balance caused by the dramatic increase in energy demand for milk production which can lead to fat mobilisation.


    Cows at Lower Wood Farm are kept in a fresh cow group for 40-50 days post-calving and checks are carried out on day six and on a three-day interval after that, if required. This includes Ketone testing cows to assess blood betahydroxybutrate (BHB) to identify ketosis. More than 1.2 millimoles are considered abnormal.

    “We went through a particularly bad phase where 50% of the cows calved in the previous seven days tested 1.2 and above,” explains Henry, who milks 263 cows in partnership with his mum, Jean, and dad, Chris, in Alberbury, near Shrewsbury.

    This had a knock-on effect on fertility with the pregnancy rate dropping from 25% to 21%. A decrease in fertility means that cows are at risk of spending more days in milk resulting in a slower return to peak yield in the subsequent lactation. This can increase costs as cows spend a longer time in lactation and are at a higher risk of being culled from the herd.

    It is well known that cows which have both clinical and sub-clinical ketosis are likely to suffer reduced fertility. Alongside this, research shows they will also likely suffer an increased risk of reduced milk yield, displaced abomasum, lameness, mastitis, and early culling, typically costing around £230 per case. Therefore, prevention is certainly better than cure.


    Henry’s vet, Tim O’Sullivan from Shropshire Farm Vets, recommended improving the energy in the transition cow diet using Glycal Forte®, a unique transition cow feed ingredient fed as a powder, which Henry refers to as “magic dust”.

    How it works

    Nutritionists at Glycal Forte® review the ketone results of fresh cows with the vet alongside basic herd disease statistics to assess whether the transition cows will benefit from inclusion of the product within the diet. This data is gathered via a funded visit from the vet.

    Following discussion with the vet, Glycal Forte® visited Lower Wood Farm and reviewed the close-up and fresh cow diets. In this case, it was decided there was sufficient evidence to feed the product.

    “The approach taken by Glycal Forte® was very pressure-free we decided to start feeding it that same week,” explains Henry.


    Significant improvements in cow health were observed with pregnancy rate lifting to 25% within two months and cow body condition improving.

    Ketone levels began to decline and eventually, almost all cases of sub-clinical ketosis were eradicated.

    Although Henry notes this was part of a holistic approach to improving nutrition: other changes alongside this were made, such as reintroducing grass-silage to the dry cows and switching to a partial DCAB diet.

    “It’s difficult to ascertain if the response was entirely down to the product but when we removed the Glycal Forte® from the diet suddenly ketone levels spiked, and cases of sub-clinical ketosis returned so we decided to re-introduce it immediately”.

    “Since then, ketone levels are back to normal and it is safe to say our fertility and cow health is now on track,” adds Henry.

    About Glycal Forte®:

    Glycal Forte® is a calcium-stabilised glycerol complex that act as both energy and calcium sources.

    It provides:

    • Rumen pH optimisation – prevents ruminal acidosis aiding diet transition.
    • Rumen-protected glycerol – this way it doesn’t harm rumen microflora and acts as an efficient glucose precursor providing extra energy.
    • Bioavailable oral calcium – aids dietary calcium intake by providing calcium chloride in a palatable form.
    • Increases ruminal microbial biomass whether rumen pH is high or low.
    • Improves rumen function – increases diet digestibility supporting feed and energy intake.
    • Acts as a source of negative DCAB – A useful addition to pre-calving diets.

    The energy response is derived from a combination of making the cow more functional, as well as providing bypass energy and calcium; Glycal Forte® looks after the rumen microbes. If we look after the rumen microbes, the rumen microbes will look after the cow. Connor states: “The modern-day dairy cow walks a metabolic knife edge, Glycal Forte® added to the diet is the answer to stop her slipping from the knife edge”.

    Glycal Forte® offer free ketone checks with your vet. If it is found that negative energy balance is likely to be hindering your cows’ performance, it is advised you feed Glycal Forte® for added effective energy.

    Following introduction of the product into the transition cow diets the fresh cow’s ketones are retested again by your vet to measure the difference. Ruminant Technical Support Manager Connor reports: “I’ve worked for Glycal Forte® just shy of 11 months now, I have not seen a case where ketone levels haven’t reduced in fresh cows post the introduction of Glycal Forte® – not only can I see that it works, the farmer and the vet can, too.”

    Glycal Forte® has been shown to increase pregnancy rates, milk yield, reduce milk somatic cell counts, lameness, condition loss and metabolic disorders.

    Glycal Forte® can perform the job of multiple products in just one small dose. This offers a cost-saving opportunity for the farmer. Transition dairy cows are naturally predisposed to some level of metabolic challenge, Glycal Forte® acts to prevent common disorders resulting in healthier, productive and more profitable cows.

    If you have a close-up, fresh cow or a high yielding group;

    Speak to your vet and find out if your cows require Glycal Forte®. To find out more send us a message or call:

    Ken Fallows – Commercial Manager UK & Ireland – 07810 813781

    Connor Smith – Ruminant Technical Support Manager – 07501 931605

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