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The cow has given birth two days ago and still doesn’t eat sufficiently. Rumination is as low as milk production. We can see a light ballooning on the left side of the cow. When you look from the back of the cow, you see an apple shape on the left of the cow and a pear shape on the right. When the veterinarian is examining the cow and gently hit the top of the right side of the cow, you can heard a metallic sound like a “ping” (Figure 1). No doubt, this cow has a left side displaced abomasum (LDA).

Figure 1 - A typical area of Ping (

Displaced abomasum is an uncommon trouble after calving. It must be lower than 3%. It is relatively easy to perform a surgery on the cow but consequences are could be serious for the animal: 10% will be culled within a month and production will be reduced by 300 to 400L during the next month after surgery. It easily cost 200 to 300$/case. Most of the time, we face left displaced abomasum. Right displaced abomasum usually lead to a quick death of the animal. During gestation, uterus will use more space in the abdominal cavity and slightly pushing up the rumen. After farrowing rumen will stay up for few days. In the same time, if the abomasum movements are too slow or absent, there is a gas accumulation leading to a dilation of the abomasum. The dilated abomasum can then easily slip below the rumen and stick to the left abdominal wall (Figure 2).

Figure 2 - Normal and abnormal position of Abomasum in a cow with LDA

When we look at the causes of displaced abomasum, absence of stomach contraction is essential to understand this disorder and can be considered as a cause. Nevertheless it is still a consequence of an unappropriated management in transition period (4 weeks before calving to 4 weeks after calving).

Fiber intake is essential

In transition period, the main objective is to maintain a proper feed intake for the dry cow. This will help the cow to start eating right after calving. In this manner, rumen will never become empty and it reduces chance of displaced abomasum. A good quality straw (2 to 4 kg) must be chopped (4cm max) and given to the cow before calving. If the cow is fed with a TMR, do not over process the TMR to keep a sufficient particle size. Make sure the cow cannot sort the TMR before calving and eat sufficient amount of fiber. More than 60% of daily dry matter intake of a dry cow must come from forage.

Many authors have demonstrated a clear link between ketosis and displaced abomasum. Cow have x12 chance to get a DA if they faced a ketosis. As we know that ketosis is linked to an over body condition (high body condition score decreases feed intake as well), make sure the body condition score at calving is 3.25 to 3.5. A proper transition from dry cow feed to lactation feed (i.e. slow increase of concentrate quantity, slow increase of corn silage quantity), will reduce the acidosis problem and the impact of negative energy balance in early lactation.

Reduce Hypocalcemia

Abomasum is a smooth muscle and needs calcium to properly move. With a lack of calcium in blood, the abomasum emptying will be reduced leading to a gas accumulation and a dilatation of the abomasum. Hypocalcemia will increase risk (5x) of DA. To maintain a sufficient calcemia at calving, it is still about transition diet management. It is advised to maintain a low Dietary Cation Anion Difference (DCAD) < 0 meq/kg of Dry Matter (DM) by using anionic salt like Magnesium chloride (also called Nigari Salt, used to make Tofu) at 150gr/head/day or Ammonium Chloride or Magnesium Sulfate. Do not forget to stop using and feeding sodium bicarbonate in transition period because it highly increases DCAD. Dilute K content of dry cow by increasing old king grass, by product feed, straw or corn silage. Calcium must be lower than 5 gr/kg DM and Phosphorus at 3gr/kg DM.

Impact of other Post-Partum disorders

Usually, DA is not the only disorder the cow will get after calving. You increase chance to get DA if you have the following disorders: Mastitis x3, Ketosis x12, Retained Placenta x7, Hypocalcemia x5, Metritis x5-x45. The other way around is true too: a cow with DA will have x50 chance to have ketosis. Metritis, Mastitis and Retained placenta make the cow producing endotoxins or molecules produced in case of elevated inflammatory response like Histamine. Those toxins will also reduce abomasum movement. Immune system will be weakened and longevity of the cow will be reduced. Make sure the cow receive a sufficient amount of trace elements and vitamins during the beginning of lactation. Drenching (fill directly the rumen a nutritive solution) can be a solution if the feed intake stays low. On figure 3, relationship and origin of different metabolic disorder.

Figure 3 - Cascade of disorders around calving

If there is more than 3% of DA on a farm, a complete investigation must be done to understand the main risk factor. As we have seen, many track are possible but there is always the same beginning: a proper dry cow diet (8 to 3 weeks before calving) and a proper close up diet (3 weeks before calving). It is essential to avoid peri partum disorder. Since this critical period is successfully over cross, lactation management become a child’s play.

Antoine BERTHO

Technical Manager NUTRISPICES


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