This is the time of year when things can start to go a little wrong, as many farmers are trying to improve cow fertility and performance for calving and post-calving while managing and balancing home-grown forages.
Although ground conditions are obviously in bad shape due to such a wet winter, farmers are also looking towards incorporating some grazed grass into the system as we head further into the month of February. Animal nutrition must be kept at the centre of all these considerations as it is going to have a direct impact on fertility and the overall herd performance. Unusually a high proportion of dairy farms are carrying significant land banks of grass for this time of year so we would all be hopeful that we get a chance to graze this grass efficiently and effectively. Subject to weather conditions, the aim should be to utilize as much grazed grass in the dairy cows’ diet via strip grazing or rotational grazing, but pitfalls must be recognised.
Prevent Grass Tetany
Grass tetany (grass staggers) is a problem that will arise on spring lush grass covers and we must make sure that cows at grass are offered a minimum of two ounces (56g per head per day) of calcined magnesite. This may be introduced via water, dusting of paddocks or in concentrates offered in the milking parlour. Under extreme weather conditions, cows will require up to four ounces (112g per head per day). For high producing dairy cows I recommend a higher level particularly post-calving.
For cows grazing grass during the day, I recommend the 18% Premium Dairy Cubes to achieve the best performance in milk yield and solids. Feeding rate will be dictated by the inclusion of calcined magnesite, grass silage quality and potential yield and I am happy to speak to farmers on an individual basis to assess their requirements.
Body Condition Scoring Cows
Irrespective of the diet, it is critical that body condition is monitored. Significant body condition loss in the immediate weeks following calving will have a detrimental effect on reproductive performance later in the year. Diets should be balanced for energy, protein, fibre and minerals. Underlying metabolic disorders must be avoided during this period and cows that require treatment in the aftermath following calving must be carefully monitored. For example, cows that have had a retained placenta at calving, have a greater chance of endometritis (infection of the uterus).
For assistance on how to improve cow fertility and performance please do not hesitate to contact any member of the Connolly’s RED MILLS nutrition team.