A cow becomes recumbent when it is unable to stand. A recumbent cow is often described as being 'down' and when it has been recumbent for a prolonged period as a 'downer cow'.
There are many causes of a downer cow, including:
1) Trauma at or after calving: Bone fracture or nerve paralysis
2) Metabolic: Milk fever or hypomagnesaemia (hypomag or grass staggers)
3) Toxic disease: Metritis or mastitis
A cow becomes a downer cow when the initial cause resolves but the cow still doesn't rise. This failure to rise is usually observed within 24 hours of the cow going off her feet, as a result of muscle and nerve damage. This damage occurs because a cow going off its feet results in heavy pressure on its muscles and nerves, this is made worse in many diseases by the cow being unable to shift position to prevent continuous bearing of weight.
1) In 46% of downer cows the primary problem was a difficult calving. So good management at calving is vital. Good calving management is dependent upon a vast number of factors, but probably the four most important are:
a) Provide a good environment: Clean, dry, low stocking density
b) Ensure the cows are between BCS 2 and 3.5 at calving
c) Observe from a distance, don't interfere too readily
d) Know when to get help and assistance
e) Choose a bull with a good score for ease of calving
2) 38 percent of downer cows had milk fever as the primary cause. Preventing milk fever will significantly reduce the number of downer cows (see NADIS fact sheet on milk fever)
NADIS hopes that you have found the information in the article useful. Now test your knowledge by enrolling and trying the quiz. You will receive an animal health certificate for this subject if you attain the required standard.