A new concept in dry and transition cow nutrition is key in delivering performance, health, and fertility for one Co Antrim dairy herd, thanks to the extra calcium supplied by ExtraCal Dry Cow Nuts from McLarnon Feeds.
Ivan Anderson runs the Standsure Holstein Herd just outside the village of Rasharkin.
The herd currently runs 66 cows plus followers and has an average yield of 8,470 litres, with 2,960 litres coming off forage.
Rolling average milk quality currently stands at 3.98% Butterfat and 3.15% Protein, with a somatic cell count of 81. Fertility in the herd is equally impressive, with a calving interval of 366 days.
Maximising milk output without compromising on milk quality, cow health and fertility are key goals for Ivan. Key to achieving these goals is that cows must enter their next lactation fit and healthy, so preventing transition cow problems such as milk fever, retained cleansings or displaced abomasums, is crucial.
Last year, Ivan decided to feed McLarnon’s ExtraCal Nuts to his dry cows for four weeks pre-calving, replacing calcium boluses which were routinely given to cows just prior to calving. As expected, cows calved down, cleaned well and entered the main milking herd without experiencing any transition-related health issues. Ivan recalls a number of difficult calvings, linked to a new bull used for the first time, which he fully expected would setback his production and fertility. But despite the added stress, these cows continued to clean well and their production was unaffected. Ivan now considers ExtraCal to be a key part of his strategy in maintaining a healthy, fertile herd.
The key to ExtraCal’s success is down to boosting the cow’s calcium levels just prior to calving. Calcium status is critical to the correct functioning of the calcium-dependent muscles of the rumen and uterine wall, and without it, cows can encounter problems such as reduced feed intake, displaced abomasum, difficult calvings and retained cleansings. Calcium is also a key component of the immune system, which during the transition period is understood to be at a low ebb and less able to fight the infectious challenges encountered during this period.
Providing extra calcium is generally considered a major challenge to milk fever, if typical dry cow nutrition advice is followed. However, the facts are that there are other causes of milk fever, for example potash, sodium and DCAD levels in the diet, that cause a change in the cow’s blood chemistry and in fact an adequate supply of calcium to the dry cow is essential in the last 3-4 weeks in order to help reduce uterine infection, improve muscle function and ensure a trouble-free calving.
If you would like to discuss how best to manage your dry and transition cows, feel free to contact McLarnon Feeds on 028 7965 0321.