HL Deb 04 June 1996 vol 572 c115WA
The Countess of Mar

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What are the signs and symptoms of the disease known as Downer Cow Syndrome found in cattle in the USA, what is the incidence and to what is the cause attributed.

Lord Lucas

The so-called "Downer Cow Syndrome" is not a disease in itself, but is a common consequence of other conditions. Any cow which has for a period of four to six hours or more been unable to rise from a recumbent position is described as a "downer".

Once a cow has been recumbent for a period of time, damage to the nerves and/or muscles of the hind legs can occur, particularly if the animal is lying on hard ground. Recovery then becomes less likely. The syndrome can be caused by any disease (particularly of the legs or feet), injury or weakness which prevents an animal from getting up. Milk Fever, for example, causes inco-ordination and recumbency in cows around the time they calve.

In the USA, it has been estimated that about two cases of "downer cow syndrome" occur per 100 cows per year. There are no comparable data for the UK.