Across the UK, retained cleansings are fast becoming the number one health issue in freshly calved dairy cows.
When the added veterinary costs are considered alongside lost milk production, delayed conception and increased culling rates, each case of retained cleansings is estimated to cost between £200-250, depending on milk price.
For one north-west dairy herd, a high incidence of retained cleansings has now been brought under control thanks to the extra calcium supplied by ExtraCal Dry Cow Nuts from McLarnon Feeds.
David and Stuart Thompson run the Keery Holstein Herd at Bready, near Strabane. The herd currently runs 210 cows plus followers, with an average yield of 9,134 litres at 3.86% Butterfat and 3.10% Protein. Historically, herd performance has been badly affected by high levels of retained cleansings and displaced abomasums in freshly calved cows. With this challenging start to a new lactation, cows were struggling to reach their true potential and fertility was an issue.
For the past two calving seasons, David and Stuart have been feeding McLarnon’s ExtraCal Nuts to their dry cows for the final four weeks before calving. Since embracing this new concept in dry cow nutrition, the health issues that blighted the herd in the past have disappeared.
Cows are now cleaning well after calving, which is helping drive the herd towards its target of 10,000 litres per cow. Fertility has also improved significantly, with the calving interval currently running at 391 days, and falling. Retained cleansings and displaced abomasums are no longer an issue, and milk fever continues to be absent from the 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 three to four 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.