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Fighting ketosis: There’s an app for that

Dr. Todd Duffield, Ontario Veterinary College, University of GuelphA new smartphone app designed to synthesize on-farm ketosis monitoring data and promote regular ketosis testing is helping move best-available science from lab bench to barn floor.

Ketosis — a metabolic condition caused by an energy deficit — affects up to 40 per cent of all dairy cows in Canada. It can lead to reduced milk yield, impaired reproduction, weight loss and fever, and increases the risk that cows will develop other health conditions, such as metritis and mastitis.

The condition also comes with a significant price tag: a recent U of G study found each case of ketosis costs farmers more than $200 in treatment costs and production losses.

Prof. Todd Duffield, in the Ontario Veterinary College's Department of Population Medicine, recommends weekly on-farm testing to allow for quick identification and treatment of the condition. But most farmers do not have rigorous on-farm ketosis monitoring programs. Instead, many rely on regular dairy herd improvement tests to monitor for ketosis. These tests are given only every 30 to 40 days and may miss the period when a cow is most susceptible to ketosis: the first two weeks after calving. Even when producers conduct more frequent on-farm monitoring, their results are often recorded in a notebook, making herd-level analysis and data sharing difficult.

iKetone allows a producer to enter test results for each cow and analyze whole herd health, which can help identify
larger trends that may point to necessary changes in management practices.

Duffield is hoping to change this practice and sees an opportunity to translate best-available science to farmers using a familiar tool — the smartphone and an app called iKetone. By providing farmers with an app that stores and synthesizes ketosis monitoring data, he hopes to remove a barrier to regular testing and make data analysis and treatment easier.

“The majority of farmers have a smartphone and they carry it with them all the time,” says Duffield. “This presents an opportunity for researchers to translate their work for easy on-farm use.”

Duffield teamed with Profs. Rozita Dara, School of Computer Science, and Stephen LeBlanc, Population Medicine, and with a software developer to create iKetone. It allows farmers to easily record and track on-farm ketosis test results and converts them into easy-to-understand herd trends.

For Duffield, the need for increased monitoring is reflected by the prevalence of the disorder. Despite the wealth of research on ketosis and ketosis prevention, the frequency of the condition is not declining.

iKetone allows a producer to enter test results for each cow and analyze whole herd health, which can help identify larger trends that may point to necessary changes in management practices. The app also allows a producer to share the data with a nutritionist and veterinarian, creating a virtually connected community of care to support overall herd health.

“The biggest advantage to frequent testing is a herd-level approach to monitoring,” says Duffield. “Herd-level testing is proactive and not reactive. Being proactive promotes good health instead of just reacting to instances of poor health.”

Funding is provided by the OMAFRA – U of G Agreement  

(By Rebecca Moore, page 42 in the 2016 Agri-Food Yearbook)

Ontario invests $713 Million in OMAFRA-U of G Agreement
The provincial government announced an investment of up to $713 million toward a unique agreement between the University of Guelph and the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) to further discovery and innovation and position Canada as a world leader in agri-food. 

Read more on the University of Guelph website and in the Globe and Mail - Ontario to unveil $713-million in funding for University of Guelph.