With calving in full swing at the moment, it is important to ensure that cows remain at optimum body condition so that fertility levels and milk yields are maintained. To ensure this, diets should be balanced for energy, protein, fibre and minerals.
The spring calving season is in full swing at the moment, and with this exceptional weather many cows are at grass by day and in some cases, out by night. This time of year is when challenges may occur, as many farmers are trying to keep cows at optimum condition for calving while managing and balancing home-grown forages. It is important that each cow is offered its full genetic dry matter intake to minimise the loss of body condition post calving.
Animal nutrition must be kept at the centre of all these considerations, as it will have a direct impact on fertility and the milk performance of the herd. Grass covers are relatively high at this time of the year, and we would all be hopeful that weather conditions stay dry and we get a chance to graze this grass efficiently and effectively. The aim should be to utilize as much grazed grass for the dairy cow’s diet via strip grazing, rotational grazing etc., subject to weather conditions. A back fence will be very important here particularly with current grazing conditions.
Grass tetany (grass staggers) may also be a problem that will arise on lush spring grass covers and we must ensure that grazing cows at grass are offered a minimum of calcined magnesite at a rate of 2 ounces (56g) per head, per day. 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 4 ounces (112g) per head, per day. For high producing dairy cows, I recommend a higher level of calcined magnesite particularly post-calving.
For cows at grass during the day, we would advise feeding an 18% protein, high energy cube which is suited to the compositional constituents in spring grass to achieve best performance in yield and milk solids. Feeding rates will be dictated by the inclusion of calcined magnesite, grass silage quality and potential yield. It is critical that body condition is monitored on an on-going basis, as significant body condition loss in the immediate weeks following calving will have a detrimental effect on the reproductive performance later in the year. Diets should be balanced for energy, protein, fibre and minerals. Underlying metabolic disorders must be managed at this period and cows that require treatment in the aftermath following calving must be carefully monitored. For example, cows that may have had retained cleanings at calving have a greater chance of endometritis (infection of the uterus) and therefore, must be examined for this.
For any assistance or advice in relation to post-partum nutrition, please do not hesitate to contact one of the Connolly’s RED MILLS nutrition team or call into our Agri Super Store in Cillin Hill.
- animal health
- animal nutrition
- body condition score
- dry matter
- feeding programme
- grass tetany
- milk levels
- transition period
- winter feed