Fresh Calvers Not Firing? Calcium Propionate or Problems with Propionate

This problem has been more apparent over the past year primarily as a response to 2019 Maize silage although it is often an underlying problem on many dairy farms regardless of yield expectations. Clearly a higher yielding cow is affected more by insufficient glucose in transition and its subsequent recovery phase thereafter.

Starch and glucose not only improve milk protein and energy status but because of insufficient glucose post calving can lead to more Beta hydroxybutyrate (Ketones) produced. Here the cow burns, fat, muscle, and protein to fulfil negative energy balance (NEB), all of which are counterproductive.

A common reason in 2019 was unprocessed maize kernels and some farms I estimate up to 80-90% of grains were uncracked. As a result, starch availability is substantially reduced with the evidence clear in undigested grains in the cows’ muck. Yeasts could be used, and rumen fungi can access some starch, but rumen throughput is too fast to substantially digest these grains, whilst yeasts are expensive and limiting in ability. Cereals could be rolled but a maize or wholecrop clamp cannot be rolled or cracked once ensiled cost effectively. Additional starch or glucose enhancing feeds need to be fed to rectify this issue and in the close and fresh calved group (21days pre-calving -> 28days post calving) one remedy is Calcium Propionate.

Calcium Propionate. What it is?

• Organic salt formed by calcium hydroxide and propionic acid and looks like a crystal or powder form.

• A tasteless but a very strong preservative very effective against moulds, bacteria and ration heating.

• Mycotoxin inhibitor

• A feed additive which can be metabolised and absorbed to aid glucose synthesis, reducing Ketosis risk.

• Regulates rumen development in calves.

Propionate is produced via rumen fermentation of starch. The issue in fresh cows arises when a high yielder cannot synthesise enough or it is compromised. All fresh cows are in negative energy balance when they calve in and dry matter intake (DMI) is key to pulling cows out of this. Calcium is key for milk production, skeletal tissue, muscles, and nervous system.

Compromised Starch/Glucose on farm,

1. Unprocessed maize kernels
2. Unprocessed wholecrop grains
3. Poorly/unprocessed cereal grains
4. Lack of starch-glucose in close and fresh ration.
5. Metabolic issues – milk fever
6. Insufficient/balanced minerals.

Calcium Propionate Feed Rate – 110grams from 21days before calving and 28days after calving.

Where you can source it from?
In agriculture Oyster shell and Propionic acid maybe used to make a source/product of Calcium Propionate. Whilst Glycerene/Glycerol/ Propylene Glycol can also be used.

For Ration Formulation advice, please contact Wesley at or your local FCG Office.

Posted in Business Management, Chippenham, Dairy & Forage.