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Prevalence and consequences of subacute ruminal acidosis in German dairy herds

Joachim L Kleen1*, Lucia Upgang2 and Jürgen Rehage2

Author Affiliations

1 CowConsult, Hochfeldstr. 2, Uplengen D-26670, Germany

2 Clinic for Cattle, University of Veterinary Medicine Foundation, Bischofsholer Damm 15, Hannover D-30173, Germany

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Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica 2013, 55:48  doi:10.1186/1751-0147-55-48

Published: 27 June 2013



The prevalence and the clinical consequences of subacute ruminal acidosis (SARA) in dairy cows are still poorly understood. In order to evaluate the prevalence of SARA, 26 German dairy farms were included in a field study. In each herd, between 11 and 14 lactating dairy cows were examined for their ruminal pH using rumenocentesis. Milk production data and farm management characteristics were recorded. Each farm was scored for lameness prevalence among lactating animals, and body condition score was recorded three times four to five weeks apart in all animals examined. Farms were grouped on basis of ruminal pH and compared for lameness, body condition, milk production parameters and style of management. Animals were grouped on basis of their measured ruminal pH and compared accordingly for milk production parameters and body condition score.


Of 315 cows examined, 63 individuals (20%) exhibited a ruminal pH of ≤ 5.5 at time of rumenocentesis. Of 26 farms examined, eleven farms had three or more of their cows experiencing a ruminal pH of ≤ 5.5 and were classified as likely experiencing subacute ruminal acidosis. These farms tended to be bigger than the others and offered less lying space to the lactating cows. There was no clear tendency regarding lameness. Among individual cows, animals with a low ruminal pH of ≤ 5.5 were found to be in significantly poorer body condition than animals with higher pH values (p < 0,05).


The study shows 11 out of 26 of herds likely experiencing SARA. Bigger herds tend to be at a higher risk for SARA, while individuals with low ruminal pH tend to be lower in body condition. The study points to the importance of management in preventing SARA.

SARA; Acidosis; Dairy; Management