Poor transition cow management

Farmers at the event in Co Down
Farmers at the event in Co Down

The poor transition from the dry period into lactation is costing Northern Ireland dairy farmers as much as 9p/litre, a Lakeland Dairies recent farm event heard.

Farmers at the Lakeland Dairies and Premier Nutrition Transition Management System (TMS) event heard that problems with mastitis, milk fever and ketosis during the first 100 days of lactation usually result from poorly managed cows during the transition period.

Farmers who attended the event in Co Down

Farmers who attended the event in Co Down

The event took place on the farm of Lakeland Dairies supplier Jim Smyth outside Jerrettspass, Co Down last week.

“Cows managed properly will lead to improved transition success with a higher milk yield, improved health and increased fertility,” Niall McCarron from the Lakeland Dairies Dairy Development Programme said at the event.

The TMS programme monitors cows and dairy herds across the UK. Of the nearly 300 farms running TMS, some 60 herd are from Northern Ireland. In total nearly 78,000 cows are being recorded through TMS – approximately 8,000 are from Northern Ireland.

The programme is recording and evaluating cows’ health at this critical period.

According to Dr Andrew Pine from Premier Nutrition, all farmers need to take a more strategic approach to managing the cow through the transition period. The TMS programme shows that even the best herds in the programme are losing as much as 0.5p/l on all milk sold by not having the cows in the correct condition over the dry period.

This figure rises to 9p/l on all milk sold on cows where cows have been badly transitioned.

According to Dr Pine, there are three key take-away messages for farmers to take into their own herds.

Firstly, he said lameness must be tackled through better housing and implementing the right diet.

Dr Pine said according to the TMS data, the rates of lameness are double in Northern Ireland than they are in the rest of the UK.

Secondly, he said rumen fill is critical for dry cows. Cows were three times more likely to suffer from issues such as acidosis, displaced stomachs and retained placentas after calving if the rumen fill was not adequate, Dr Pine said.

Dr Pine said thinner cows at calving will not produce as much milk as they will spend the first part of the lactation catching up on the nutrition they missed out in the dry period.

Other speakers included Alan Hurst from Lakeland Agri on how best to manage the cows’ diet as well as Christopher Cahill from Lakeland Dairies and Shannon Porter from Premier Nutrition on the importance of body condition scoring on cows.