Evaluation and use of three cowside tests for detection of subclinical ketosis in early postpartum cows

J. Carrier, S. Stewart, S. Godden, J. Fetrow, P. Rapnicki

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The objective was to evaluate the performance of 3 cowside diagnostic tests for detection of subclinical ketosis, defined as a serum β-hydroxybutyrate (BHBA) concentration ≥1400 μmol/L. On 16 d over a 5-mo period, samples of serum, milk, and urine were collected on a large dairy facility from cows of all parities between 2 and 15 DIM. The sample proportion of subclinical ketosis was 7.6% (n = 859 samples from 545 cows). The KetoCheck powder (Great States Animal Health, St. Joseph, MO) detecting acetoacetate in milk samples was very specific (99%) but poorly sensitive (41%). Respective sensitivities and specificities of the Ketostix strip detecting acetoacetate in urine samples (Bayer Corporation, Elkhart, IN) were 78 and 96% with a cut-off point of quot;small", or 49 and 99% with a cut-off of "moderate." The KetoTest strip (Sanwa Kagaku Kenkyusho Co. Ltd., Nagoya, Japan) using milk samples had a sensitivity and specificity of 73 and 96% with a cut-off of 100 μmol of BHBA/L or 27 and 99% with a cut-off of 200 μmol of BHBA/L. On average, use of the Ketostix at the "small" cut-off point or the KetoTest at 100 μmol/L would result in no more than 3 or 4 false positives per 100 cows screened, with prevalence levels ranging from 5 to 30%, whereas the number of false negatives would range from one false negative at 5% prevalence to 7 or 8 false negatives at 30% prevalence. Either the Ketostix or KetoTest strips would provide acceptable results for screening individual cows on commercial dairies to detect subclinical ketosis. Over this prevalence range, the KetoCheck powder test would have limited application as a screening test. Despite only one false positive per 100 animals screened, false negatives resulting from screening with the KetoCheck test would be too frequent, ranging from 3 false negatives at 5% prevalence to 18 at 30% prevalence in a population of 100 tested cows. Finally, given their relative imprecision, use of any of these individual cowside tests to estimate herd prevalence must be done cautiously, especially when only a small number of animals are sampled.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3725-3735
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2004

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors gratefully acknowledge Balchem Corporation and Elanco Animal Health for providing financial support for testing. The authors also thank Jodi Olson, Jim Lewis, and Dan Preisler for their valuable assistance in the sample collection and testing procedures.


  • Diagnostic test
  • Milk
  • Subclinical ketosis
  • Urine

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