Herd management in the spotlight

editorial image

The autumn/winter dairy breeding season is well under way across the country with pregnancy diagnosis being undertaken as a result.

The early identification and management of those cows and heifers found to be bearing twins through ultrasound scanning is worthwhile. Approximately one in every 57 cattle births in Ireland resulted in a twin birth, recorded in the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation database.

Twinning in dairy cattle increases with parity, ranging from 1% for heifers up to almost 10% during later parities. Twinning is a risk factor for ketosis and the following conditions are strongly linked to ketosis; metritis, ovarian dysfunction, abomasal displacement and loss of yield in early lactation.

Cows carrying twins often calve earlier by up to as much as 10 days and thus may require proactive transition management. These animals may benefit from an earlier dry off and a tailored nutritional approach while continuing to monitor body condition throughout the dry period. Identifying these animals through the use of on farm recording systems allows for their management to be optimised as they approach calving.

Too often cows and heifers bearing twins are forgotten about or not identified until calving at which point the detrimental effects of the disease conditions listed earlier begin to be demonstrated. One simple approach is to attach a short cable tie around an ear tag as a visual reminder for farmers that these animals were found to be in calf to twins during scanning and should be managed accordingly.

One approach to aid in the management of these animals is the targeted use of monensin in the form of a Kexxtone® controlled release bolus administered three weeks prior to expected calving date. Kexxtone® is proven to reduce the incidence of ketosis in dairy cows and heifers and is therefore a pragmatic method to minimise the impact of negative energy balance in this vulnerable group of animals.

The bolus provides 95 days of coverage and covers the main risk period for ketosis in these animals during the periparturient period. There are zero milk or meat withholding periods after using Kexxtone® giving the farmer peace of mind and reducing hassle at a busy and stressful time of year. Reminding farmers to purchase and administer Kexxtone in time is essential to maximise the benefits associated with reducing the impact of ketosis in these at risk animals.