Urophigia in Cows
Cows are commonly kept in domestic animals. They are kept for various purposes especially, milk and meat. There are many medical conditions that affect cows badly. Sometimes, cow farmers show concerns to know about the abnormal eating habits of cows such as eating dirt, feces, inanimate objects, and all. Drinking urine is also one of the major questions that are usually asked.
Here, we will discuss why cows drink their own or other herd mate’s urine under the light of scientific literature.
What is Pica?
Pica is a medical condition that is usually seen in cows. In this condition, cows eat inanimate objects, lick clay and rocks, etc. There are many factors that are considered responsible for this condition in cows. Dietary reasons are on the top.
Urine drinking is medically called as urophagia. This devastated behavior is mostly seen in cows at the farm. This has also been observed that cows suffering from this condition drink their urine or directly suck the urine of their herd mates. This bad habit also spreads quickly in the whole herd, If not monitored timely. NOTE: Urine drinking has been observed in cows of all ages (adult/ calves).
What are Causes of Urophagia?
According to scientific research, there are many reasons which predispose cows to drink urine. Some important key causes have been enlisted below:
Mineral deficiency (sodium, potassium, copper, phosphorous and trace minerals) in cow’s diet
Improper cow housing drainage system including bad concrete and inefficient yard drainage
A number of metabolic disorders such as acetonimea, metabolic acidosis in which cows show a desire for alkaline material and start drinking urine due to its alkaline tendency.
Usually occurs in high lactating cows/freshly calved cows because of the loss of minerals through their bodies. Especially, if you keep them on low roughage rations.
Lack of exercise/inactivity and boredom are also contributing factors.
Hormonal imbalances/stress can also cause cows to drink urine.
Why Urophagia is Bad?
This habit is considered very bad in cows and is never liked by the cow owners. One of the major reasons is the infectious nature of the urine. Urine from infected animals carries a number of disastrous pathogens which can cause serious health outcomes in cows and put the overall herd health at risk.
There are some important pathogens such as Bovine viral diarrhea virus, Tuberculosis bacteria, Salmonella, Leptospira, etc. They can easily be transmitted to healthy cows if she drinks the urine of infected cows.
Does Urophagia Impacts Cow’s Milk Production?
No. The negative Impact of urine drinking on milk production has not been reported so far. But this habit is considered as extremely bad. It puts cows at risk of contracting various infectious diseases through the consumption of urine. Simply, owners don’t like to see their cows going through this sick condition.
Composition of cow’s urine
Typically cows urine contains the following things:
Other traces of enzymes, hormones, minerals—2.5%
Important minerals are nitrogen, sulfur, sodium, iron, silicon, etc.
(EARLY DIAGNOSIS EARLY TREATMENT)
This is better to keep an eye on cow’s behavior. A responsible owner does regular monitoring of herd. If you see this behavior, report it to your vet. Your vet will suggest a better plan/strategy deal with this situation.
Two main things are very much important and should be considered while diagnosing the urophagia in cows. Remember, the exact etiology (cause) of urine drinking in cows is not clearly understood.
In blood biochemistry, your vet will suggest you get checked the mineral level in your cow’s blood. The most important minerals to be monitored are calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, cobalt, copper, nickel, etc. This is done to evaluate whether your cow is a deficit in minerals or not.
Feed analysis is done to check whether cow’s feed is providing her a sufficient amount of minerals. If not then provide her vet recommended supplements.
These two above mentioned tests help you in a better understanding of this medical condition plus making the best treatment plan to combat this.
NOTE: Also diagnose, whether your cow is already having any metabolic conditions such as acidosis or ketosis or not. If she is suffering from any metabolic condition, then firstly treat that.
Treat and Prevention
After doing a proper diagnosis, your vet can suggest the best treatment strategy. If the cow is experiencing any mineral deficiency, it is better to provide her with a good mineral mixture. Salt blocks should be kept in front of her.
Provide extra roughages, if you think, this condition is due to low roughage intake but only after taking veterinary consultancy.
This condition quickly spreads in the whole herd,
so if you find this in a few cows, separate them. That’s why it is recommended to diagnose it earliest before it affects the whole herd and put you in worrisome condition.
As discussed earlier, housing is also one the contributing factor which causes this bad urine drinking habit in your cows. Proper drainage facility and level surface of the shed are much important. If you find any problem with the drainage system or concrete of your shed, correct it on a priority basis. This has been seen in various cases that, better housing literally helps in controlling this habit in cows to a certain level.
One of my friends had 20 dairy cows. A few of his cows started showing urophagia. Luckily, he diagnosed it early. After consulting his veterinarian, he came to know that the diet he was providing to his cows was a deficit in essential minerals. He supplemented his cows with manufactured mineral mixture along with the regular diet. Surprisingly, he showed a positive response. Within a couple of months, his cows started becoming normal. Hence, it proved mineral deficiency is one of the major factors that urge your cows to drink alkaline urine.
this is highly recommended to all cow farmers that they should ensure the mineral intake (according to the nutritional requirement of cows with respect to her physiological stage) in their cows. Special care should be given to pregnant (near parturition), lactating cows as they are more susceptible to go under mineral deficiencies.
Aguirre, R. A. 1978. Effect of normal and low dietary chloride on the concentration of chloride, sodium, and potassium in body fluids and feces of lactating cows. MS thesis, Cornell University.
Committee on Mineral Nutrition. 1973. Tracing and treating mineral disorders in dairy cattle. Center for Agr. Publ. and Docu., Wageningen, Netherlands.
Top of Form
J.H. Gans, P.F. Mercer M.J. Swenson (Ed.), The Kidneys. Dukes’ physiology of domestic animals, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY (1977)
J.B. TaskerFluids, electrolytes, and acid- base balance
(2nd ed.)J.J. Kaneko, C.E. Cornelius (Eds.), Clinical biochemistry of domestic animals, Vol. II, Academic Press, New York, NY (1971)
Walter Grünberg, Stefanie Witte, Imke Cohrs, Lennart Golbeck, Jos F. Brouwers, Anja E. Müller, M. Schmicke, Liver phosphorus content and liver function in states of phosphorus deficiency in transition dairy cows.
Cattle Losses 2010
|Cause of Death||Percentage of Total|
World Cattle Breeder Associations
|National Cattleman's Beef Associations||United States||NCBA|
|United States Cattlemans Association||United States||USCA|
|Ohio Cattlemans Association||Ohio||OCA|
|American Angus Association||United States||AAA|
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|Australia Cattle Associations||Australia||ACA|