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Udder Edema Can Be the Result of Excess Minerals

Dairy Pipeline: November 1995

by Charles C. Stallings
Extension Dairy Scientist, Nutrition

Udder edema can be an aggravating problem, especially in first calf heifers. This condition is related to a drop in blood proteins as the cow transfers immunoglobulins to colostrum. Contributing factors are overfeeding grain, excess salt in dry cow rations, and high potassium forages. Diuretics and corticosteroids can be used as treatment. Also udder massage (10-20 minutes 2X/day) and moderate exercise have been helpful. Limiting salt to dry cows is desirable, however, cows do need some salt during the dry period. Using block salt rather than loose is one way to reduce intake. Also salt can be controlled by mixing in other feeds which are limit fed. Grass hays and pastures can contain high levels of potassium, especially if they have had manure applied to them. High potassium feeds for dry cows are also a problem if anionic salts are used. Generally, high potassium feeds need to be limited if edema is a significant problem. Feeds such as corn silage are lower in potassium and substitute for a portion of the ration dry matter.

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