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By now, most of you should be receiving a couple important updates from DFO regarding ProAction requirements.

Animal Care Assessments

Change from Percentiles to Fixed Categories – peer reported zones are now fixed rather than based on percentiles across other herds. The thresholds have been established based on the benchmarks set by the first round of cattle assessments conducted across Canada. In other words, the score of your herd into green yellow or red zones for body condition, hocks, knees, neck, and lameness are based on percentage of animals categorized as acceptable vs needing corrective action in your herd, instead of being based on percentiles of other herds across the country.

Addition of Dark Red Category - See the table below. You will notice as new category labelled as dark red. This is a temporary zone for herds scoring less than 60% acceptable in any category, which hopefully does not apply to any of our clients. This is a way to prioritize farms in need of the most improvement. Farms in this category must document and implement a corrective action plan in consultation with their veterinarian, nutritionist, or other dairy specialist. Farms with one or more results in the Dark Red Category must conduct their next cattle assessment in 12 months instead of the standard 24 months, as well as classify a higher number of animals within the herd. Farms must demonstrate improvement out of the dark red zone. Three consecutive Dark Red zone results for the same animal based measure will be assigned a major noncompliance during validation and those farms will not pass their ProAction validation to maintain registration.

Timeline for Changes - the effective date for these changes is March 2021. Beginning March 2023, the same expectations and timelines will be true for herds scoring in the red zone for any particular animal based measure. The rationale from DFO is that continuous improvement requirements are needed to clearly demonstrate every farm’s commitment to excellent animal care. Requiring mandatory improvement out of Dark Red, and eventually Red zones demonstrates to farmers, peers, customers, consumers and the public that animal care is a top priority and that meeting standards is expected and required.


DairyTrace, the new national cattle traceability system for dairy, was launched on Oct. 5, 2020. Aligned with ProAction requirements, the DairyTrace program will be run by Lactanet Canada, as the responsible administrator for dairy cattle traceability. General information about the system will be sent to producers in the form of a welcome kit via the October issue of Milk Producer magazine. In the coming weeks, producers with existing CCIA accounts will receive communication directly from DairyTrace regarding their new account activation. Producers wishing to transfer their historical traceability data from CCIA to DairyTrace will be asked to provide permissions to do so.

Traceability reporting through DairyTrace will become mandatory in September 2021.

DairyTrace customer service is already available to answer questions and update account details. Starting Oct. 5, 2020, producers will be able to report events, such as tag activation or animal movements to the dairy tracking database.

You can reach DairyTrace customer service at 1-866-55 TRACE (558-7223) or email

For more information, please visit the DairyTrace website at


Update on Hypocalcemia (Milk Fever)

Some of you attended our fall producer meeting last year, when we had a good discussion with Dr. Murray Gillies from Vetoquinol on milk fever and calcium therapy. Although that may seem like a lifetime ago with all that has happened in 2020 (need we say more!), one of the major take home messages, was that our understanding of milk fever, both clinical and subclinical hypocalcemia, is constantly evolving, and subsequently so do our therapies for treatment and prevention. A full recap of the meeting, or milk fever in general, is beyond the scope of this newsletter, but current and ongoing research is starting to classify hypocalcemic cows into different groups, and relate those to the well-known negative health effects of increased dystocias or calving difficulities, retained placentas, DAs, mastitis, ketosis and reduced milk production. Interestingly, new research has grouped cows into 4 groups post calving, in relation to calcium status

  1. Normocalcemic – blood calcium remains in normal range all 3 days post calving

  2. Transient subclinical hypocalcemia ( tSCH) – where calcium is below normal at calving , but within normal range on day 3 or 4

  3. Delayed subclinical hypocalcemia ( dSCH) – where calcium is normal at calving, but below normal range on day 4

  4. Persistent subclinical hypocalcemia ( pSCH) – where calcium is below normal range at calving and day 4

For simplicity and for consistency with a few other newer studies, let us combine groups 3 and 4 into chronic hypocalcemic cows (cSCH). The important message is that different research groups have shown that it is not necessarily how low serum calcium drops, but the persistency of the subclinical hypocalcemia that increases the risk of an adverse health condition and decreased production. McCart et al 2020 showed that transient SCH had little negative association with health, production or reproduction, but chronic SCH had more health problems, delayed reproductive success, lower production and increased removal from the herd.

In short, the common strategy of giving supplemental calcium at calving plus or minus 12 hours later, may only be beneficial in a subgroup of cows and perhaps missing the most clinically important group. Ongoing research is also looking at the potential benefits of giving 2 boluses at the initial dose with regards to increasing serum calcium and milk fever prevention.

Calcium Sources and Dissolution Times (Image 1)

You may also recall that another take home message was that calcium boluses, commonly used to help prevent clinical milk fever or treat subclinical hypocalcemia, are not all created equal. In general , calcium boluses should supply a safe, non-irritating rapidly available calcium source, have rapid bolus dissolution, and supply a sufficient amount of calcium. It should also create a mild systemic acidosis so that parathyroid hormone has increased activity for bone and kidney resorption of calcium, as well as active absorption of calcium through the gut.

Calcium Sources and Dissolution Times (Image 2)

So which is the best bolus to use Doc? While most of the boluses available today are similar, there are a few differences of note. Dr Register boluses, although the highest in Calcium chloride which is the source most of the rapidly available calcium, are a non-coated bolus. Therefore the calcium chloride, which is quite acidic, can be very irritating to the esophagus. This is especially true if the bolus breaks upon administration, a drawback not associated with all the other boluses which have a gelatin coating for protection. Rumilife24, another common OTC calcium bolus available, contains the lowest calcium chloride concentration and thereby the lowest rapidly available calcium. In addition to that, a study out of a Alberta by Solvet, the pharmaceutical company who makes the Cal-Boost bolus measured the dissolution time of 3 boluses ; Cal-Boost, Transition and Rumilife 24 in a rumen fistulated cow (a permanent hole in the side of a cow giving direct access to the inside of the rumen) by measuring weight of the bolus over time by pulling the remnants of the bolus directly from the rumen at various time increments. They showed that their boluses was completely dissolved by 90 minutes, Transition bolus was completely dissolved by 180 min, and even by 240 minutes, the Rumilife24 bolus was still mostly undissolved. Corresponding blood calcium levels at these same time increments seemed to correlate with the dissolution times for each different bolus.

Talk to your herd vet or trusted advisor about whether you are getting the most out of your calcium bolus therapy.

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