National Foods Stockfeeds :: From the Nutritionists Desk - Nutritionally Supporting The Dry Cow With NFL Stockfeeds

The Nutritionist's Desk


Nutritionally supporting the dry cow with NFL Stockfeeds

Dairy Cow Nursing Calves

Two questions.
Q1: Are there problems on your farm with metabolic diseases during the transition phase (21 days before to 21 days after calving)?
Q2: What about on a subclinical level? This is not something that is generally given more than a moments’ thought by most of us. So when one has a closer look at the genetic potential of the animals’, their body condition changes throughout the lactation and their milk compositions among other things, one starts to get a clearer picture which allows us to more accurately answer question number one.

Whether on a total mixed ration (TMR) or pasture-based operation, a well-balanced nutritional program for the dry cow is one of the most essential aspects to consider when forecasting her next lactation potential. Metabolic diseases such as milk fever, ketosis, displaced abomasum’s (DA), dirty cows, and the prevalence of mastitis and metritis can all be significantly mitigated with correct nutrition and management. The knock-on effect is that the cow enters her lactation in a much better status, and can achieve a higher peak in lactation and maintain this to boost her overall yield per lactation. What follows is that fertility and productivity are positively influenced; all aspects leading to a healthier, more efficient cow, and therefore business.

A well-balanced ration for the far off and steam up cows (21 days before calving) is critical in ensuring feed intake. Feed intake is a key driver for a successful transition, but care must be taken to ensure the correct raw materials are used to prevent fat cows calving down. Altering the calcium metabolism via DCAD (dietary cation-anion difference) goes a long way to combating milk fever cases, but if the intakes are insufficient due to the unpalatability of the anionic salts, for example, the pre-partum ration output on paper is worthless. Management and animal husbandry principles play just as important a role in ensuring feed intake, such as adequate feed bunk space (minimum 0.6m/cow).

Amongst other farm-specific situations and challenges, these factors should always be incorporated to ensure the best care for your transition cows. The results will speak for themselves with healthy calves with access to good quality colostrum, as well as the points mentioned above. The culmination of this is the best care for the future of the herd, and thus minimizes the figures in answering question two.

NFL Stockfeeds strives to factor in these challenges when designing high-quality dry cow rations, on offer to the market to best meet the requirements of these cows during this delicate phase. Please contact your nearest NFL Stockfeed representative to learn more about our products for this phase; NF Far Off-Dry Cow Meal and Close Up* Dry Cow Meal.

*Close Up and Steam Up are terms used interchangeably to describe the same phase, commonly referred to in Zimbabwe as Maternity (all 21 days before calving).

Dry Cow ration with forage in Hand

Figure 1. A typical dry cow ration with high forage, chopped to 4 – 5cm lengths to minimize sorting, preventing acidosis.. Note the bulky nature to control energy levels.

Table 1. A few on farm management factors to consider for transition cows.

 Management FactorManagement Factor  Reason for implementing
 Minimize overcrowding (stocking density)  Reduced feed space hampers intake; increased aggression, reduced feeding times; reduced lying time
 Separating cows and heifers (first lactation cows)  Uniformity in groups; minimizes dominance against smaller, younger animals
 Provide shade  Heat stress has a significant effect on subsequent lactations yield, calf weights and fertility
 Excessive group changes  Dominance re-order every time groups are changed, affecting group hierarchy

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