The dry cow period represents that make or break time in a cow’s breeding: production cycle will determine the success of her upcoming lactation.
All of those key metabolic disorders that can so badly impact on the fresh cow – including milk fever, ketosis, displaced abomasums and retained cleanings – have their origins in the management practices followed in the period between drying off and calving.
And, of course, problems that are directly linked to the actual calving process itself, such as dystocia, are also directly linked to the management of the cow during her dry period.
Given this backdrop United Feeds has recently launched a new advisory booklet entitled: Pre-Calver Management Programme – the foundation for success… In a very easy to understand way it relates the most up-to-date thinking on how to manage cows most effectively during the dry period. In an optimal situation this should last for eight weeks, split equally into far-off and close up periods.
The over-riding theme of the publication is the absolute necessity to have cows drying of with a Body Condition Score (BCS) of between 2.75 and 3.00. It’s then a case of maintaining this degree of flesh cover through to calving itself. But as the booklet also points out, attaining these BCS targets requires cows to be closely assessed throughout their lactations. In order to facilitate the actual BCS monitoring process a series of photos, featuring cows with a wide range of condition scores, is featured prominently.
The booklet also details the best way of meeting the dry cow’s nutritional requirements. The fundamental driver in this regard is the feeding of forages with high fibre contents, which are low in Potash. If this is not achieved cows will be predisposed to both sub clinical and clinical milk fever post calving.
As the publication also points out feed intakes may be depressed during the four weeks directly prior to calving, putting cows into a negative energy balance situation. It is unfolding this scenario that can lead to ketosis problems with freshly calved animals. Significantly, United Feeds’ Pre-Calver range will act to increase the energy density of dry cow diets thereby creating a positive energy balance scenario in the run up to calving. In turn, this will encourage higher feed intakes during early lactation, with all the obvious benefits this will generate.
Copies of the new booklet are available from all United Feeds’ nutritional advisors. Alternatively, milk producers can contact the United Feeds Customer Services’ Department on 028 9075 9000.