Transition Cow Benchmarks

Rates (achievable and alarm) and the parameters for transition cows
Parameter Achievable Rate Alarm Rate
Displaced abomasum <3% ≥6%
Milk Fever <2% ≥5%
Retained Placenta <8% ≥10%
Metritis and Ketosis If the rate of displaced abomasums is over 6% it is likely that metritis and ketosis may also be a challenge in fresh cows. At this point ketosis should be investigated by chemical analysis.

Stillborns – born dead or died within 24 hrs of birth

<10% of first lactation, heifer calves
<6% multiparous cows, heifer calves

>12% of first lactation, heifer calves
>7% of multiparous cows, heifer calves

Dead and sold



Length of dry period: ≥ end of 2nd lactation

40-60 days

>20% less than 30 Days
>20% greater than 80 days

Length of dry period: Between first and second lactation

50-60 days

>20% less than 40 Days
>20% greater than 80 days

Ketosis (between 3-21 DIM)
Parameter Achievable Rate Alarm Rate
Clinical* 3% >8%
Sub-clinical** <15% >25%

*clinical ketosis – BHB (beta hydroxy butyric acid) >27mg/dL
**sub-clinical ketosis – BHB >14 mg/dL

Mastitis (Goal of BTSCC of 200,000)
Parameter Achievable Rate Alarm Rate
All cows First test LS>4 <10%


Heifers first test LS>4



New infections between first two tests after calving – all cows



Cure rate in fresh period: 1st test LS>4 followed by 2nd test LS<4




  • Cook, N. B., and K. V. Nordlund. 2004. Behavioral needs of the transition cow and considerations for special needs facility design. Vet. Clin. Food Anim. 20:495-520.

  • Drackley, J. K., and N. A. Janovick-Guretzky. 2007. Controlled energy diets for dry cows. Proceedings Western Dairy Management Conference, Reno NV. pp. 1-11.

  • Goff, J. P. 2004. Macromineral disorders of the transition cow. Vet. Clin. Food Anim. 20:471- 494.

  • Nordlund, K. V., and N. B. Cook. 2004. Using herd records to monitor transition cow survival, productivity, and health. Vet. Clin. Food Anim. 20:627-649.

  • Overton, T. R. 2005. Is there a place for shortened dry periods for high producing herds? Advanced in Dairy Technology – Proceedings Western Canadian Dairy Seminar. University of Alberta, Edmonton. pp. 25-34.

  • Overton, T. R., and M. R. Waldron. 2004. Nutritional management of transition dairy cows: Strategies to optimize metabolic health. J. Dairy Sci. 87(E. Suppl.):E105-119.

  • Overton, T. R., M. R. Waldron, and K. L. Smith. 2006. Feeding strategies for transition dairy cows. Proceedings Eastern Nutrition Conference. Animal Nutrition Association of Canada, Guelph, ON.

  • Overton, T. Transition Cows: Room to Improve, pg. 19

  • Stone, W. Tune Up Your Transition Program, pg. 20

  • Overton, T. The Energy Balance Beam for Close-up Cows, pg. 23

  • Dann, H. Attention Shifts to Far-off Dry Cows, pg. 24

  • Overton, T. Focus on Fresh Cow Culls, pg. 25

  • Overton, T. Eradicating Milk Fever ad Related Disorders, pg. 26

  • Overton, T. Retained Placentas: A New Look at an Old Subject, pg. 27

  • Smith K., Overton, T. Research Looks for a Way to Control Spikes in NEFA, pg. 28

  • Nydam, D., Stokal, T., Overton, T. Study Assesses Common, But Important, Conditions, pg. 30

  • Burhans, B. Transition Cow Health Disorders in New England Herds, pg. 32