In the majority of dairy herds cows are now beginning to "spring up" and the management task that is still in hand is to ensure a smooth transition from non-lactating to lactating, where particular attention should be given to body condition score (BCS), herd health and appropriate mineral supplementation.
Recent farm visits have shown evidence that the BCS of many cows expected to calve are not at the optimum score of 3, and most are at just 2.75. My advice is still to encourage dairy farmers when drying off cows to monitor the body condition of the cow and adjust the diet in the pre calving period to correct the body condition as quick as possible. It is best to address problems early on but better late than never.
In terms of supplementation, not all prepartum cows require additional feed from the basal diet, and when the dry period is over 60 days, excessive body condition can become an issue, thereby leading to a higher risk of metabolic disorders.
Eliminating historical herd health issues
While my preference is to support farmers in achieving continuous herd health and performance, unfortunately most of my work on farms is helping farmers address underlying problems. There are several farms where we will need to address the problems that occurred last year and mitigate against them reoccurring in 2017. This involves implementing preventative strategies to avoid metabolic disorders and mineral imbalances. My advice to all farmers is to check the minerals offered to dairy cows, making sure each cow has space and access to these minerals. In certain situations it can be best to offer mineral supplementation twice daily. At Connolly’s RED MILLS we have a tailored mineral package for dairy cows with a high content of magnesium, phosphorus, selenium and vitamin E so it is important to know you are feeding the right balance of what is required. Consulting with a qualified nutritionist is strongly advised.
Post calving supplementation
During the post calving season it is also crucial that the diet has a tailored range of minerals together with a more dense energy and protein feed. This will be key to offsetting the degree of negative energy balance, thereby minimising the loss of condition. A high energy content of 0.94 UFL for overall diet with 16% protein is highly recommended and focus on encouraging a high dry matter intake. Top quality silage should be offered together with high quality energy and protein supplements.
For further advice on dealing with herd health in the immediate pre and post calving period, be sure to contact one of the Connolly’s RED MILLS nutrition team. We wish all our customers are productive season as we enter into calving 17!
- Body Condition Scoring