A Smooth Transition Period Is Key For Lactation Success
14th September 2018

Improving efficiency on dairy farms is the key message from Fane Valley Feeds this autumn to help withstand current market pressure from increased grain prices.

Fane Valley Feeds’ Dry Cow Primer rations have been redesigned to balance 2018 grass silages, ensuring a smooth transition to lactation.

Matthew Armstrong, Ruminant Nutritionist at Fane Valley Feeds, outlines some of the key factors to ensure dry cows receive adequate nutrition and the best possible transition to lactation – eliminating problems that impact on production, fertility or health performance.

“In Northern Ireland, potassium levels in our forages is the predominant cause of milk fever due to our dependence on grass silages. Milk fever is one of the most common metabolic diseases that occurs in Northern Ireland dairy cows in both clinical and subclinical forms. It is estimated that for each case of clinical milk fever, lactation yield can be reduced by up to 1400 litres. For every case of clinical milk fever, it is suggested that there are up to six cases of sub-clinical milk fever which can lead to cow health problems including retained placentas, mastitis and reduced fertility."

Body Condition Score: One of the best management tools to reduce metabolic issues is regular body condition scoring. Body condition score should be altered before drying off by physically assessing individual cows 8 to 10 weeks before planned dry off. Cows should be dried off at a BCS 3.0 and this should be maintained throughout the dry period.

Cows that are either too thin or too fat at calving can have higher rates of;

- Metabolic disease;

- Lower feed intakes;

- Lower milk production;

- Poorer fertility;

Cows that are not at this target BCS should be identified and then fed accordingly.

Nutrition: Dry cows should be fed to meet their energy requirements and maximise rumen fill. Feeding excess energy should be avoided as it can lead to fatty liver syndrome and ketosis, causing lower feed intakes after calving and metabolic diseases. Adding straw to the dry cow diet can help but only work successfully in a TMR system where straw sorting is prevented.

Where dry cows are at grass, they should be batched according to calving date with cows that are four to eight weeks pre-calving grazing the aftermath of the lactating herd to limit excess energy intakes. With fresh grass high in calcium, dry cow intakes of fresh grass should be limited in the weeks before calving. Cows between four weeks pre-calving and the point of calving should be housed full-time on a ration such as that discussed above.

The starting point of any dry cow diet is a full mineral profile of the forages to be used. Silages with high levels of potassium can cause problems with milk fever and subclinical milk fever.

Fane Valley Feeds Dry Cow Primer Nuts feature a mineral pack specifically designed for dry cows  formulated to contain high levels of Vitamins E, A, D3, B12, magnesium, iodine, cobalt and chelated selenium, copper and zinc.  Actisaf live yeast within the dry cow diet will help to ensure that the rumen bacteria that digest concentrate feed are present and cope with increasing concentrate intakes post calving. The growing foetus and regenerating udder cells have a huge protein demand, at 24% protein featuring a high level of protected protein. Dry Cow Primer Nuts will ensure that this protein requirement of the cow is satisfied. The inclusion of magnesium chloride reduces the incidence of both clinical and subclinical milk fever.

Management Tips for Dry Cows

  • Assess BCS 100 days pre-drying off and target BCS 3.0 at drying off.
  • Optimum dry period is eight weeks.
  • Do not overfeed dry cows. Use straw to control energy intake.
  • Increase energy intake in the final stages of the dry period.
  • Fresh TMR daily to maximise DMI.
  • 2-3kg of Dry Cow Primer Nuts per day for at least four weeks prior to calving.

For more information on Fane Valley Feeds Dry Cow Primer Nuts and options for managing the nutrient intake of dry cows, please contact your local Fane Valley Feeds Sales Representative or Matthew Armstrong on 07714 950 585.