With calving season just around the corner, particular attention must be placed on herd health and appropriate mineral supplementation to avoid further problems later in the season.
Dry Period Duration
All spring calving herds are now dried off in preparation for calving in early February. The optimum dry period length is between 45-60 days, with many studies demonstrating that shorter dry periods reduce milk yield in subsequent lactation. However, as milk production levels increase and the persistency of lactation improves in modern high genetic merit cows, I believe that further research is required to evaluate the optimal dry period length. For example, dairy farmers that I have recently visited in Ireland and the UK are drying cows off whilst they are still producing 25 litres per day at drying off stage. On many of these farms, a transition from lactation to dry off stage is implemented three weeks prior to drying off so each cow can adapt to the acute changes in their metabolic and physiological state. Feed frequency, milk frequency and dietary specifications are altered and in many cases water is restricted.
At this point, the management task for farmers is to ensure a smooth transition from non-lactating to lactating. To encourage high intakes, I recommend that farmers offer far off dry cows a high quality diet consisting of grass silage and chopped straw. Depending on the quantity of chopped straw added to the diet, a protein source may also be required to balance the overall diet to 13%. I would also advise farmers to offer dry cow mineral supplementation in the weeks leading up to calving. At Connolly’s RED MILLS we have a tailored mineral package for dairy cows which contains essential macro minerals such as magnesium, phosphorus and sodium and trace elements including copper, iodine and selenium. During the post calving season, vitamins A, D and E are very important to offset metabolic disorders.
In the final weeks of gestation, dry matter intake is reduced by up to 30%, creating a state of negative energy and protein imbalance. This degree of negative energy and protein imbalance will result in the mobilization of body reserves to offset the demands of pregnancy and lactation. It is therefore very important that the energy density of the dry cow diet is increased three weeks prior to calving to allow a smooth transition from non-lactating to lactation.
For further advice on a nutritional programme for dry cows please contact Connolly’s RED MILLS. Wishing all our customers a productive 2018.