by Amanda Smith, Associate Editor
Holstein cow with newborn calf

Overnight, transition cows are required to shift from being a "couch potato" to a marathon runner. The cow's nutrient and energy demands rise dramatically at this time to support the metabolic marathon they'll run in lactation.

"We all have similar goals for our cows during the transition period," noted Tom Overton, Cornell University, at the Penn State Dairy Cattle Nutrition Workshop.

Ultimately, we want high milk production, a minimal loss of body condition, a low incidence of metabolic disorders, limited immune suppression, healthy calves and a quick return to fertility.

"At the farm level, there doesn't have to be a trade-off between good milk, health and reproduction. High-performing dairies can achieve all of these," noted Overton.

Over the past decade, we've implemented a number of new nutritional strategies and further evaluated the importance of nonnutritional factors (stocking density, grouping strategies, heat abatement) during this time period.

Yet, opportunities still exist.

In an ode to Letterman, Overton then shared the Top 10 things you can to do for healthy and productive transition cows:
  1. Manage macromineral nutrition/DCAD (dietary cation-anion difference) of dry cows, especially in the last two to three weeks before calving.
  2. Control energy intake in both far-off and close-up dry cows – not too little, not too much.
  3. Make sure you're supplying enough metabolizable protein (and amino acids) before calving.
  4. Get the feeding management right, every day.
  5. Provide clean, comfortable housing and fresh water.
  6. Manage social interactions and the social hierarchy.
  7. Alleviate cold stress and heat stress.
  8. Provide high-quality forage and fermentable diets for fresh cows.
  9. Strategically use feed additives/nutritional tools.
  10. Implement cow- and herd-level monitoring programs.
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(c) Hoard's Dairyman Intel 2015
December 7, 2015
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