How we feed and manage cows during the transition period can minimize illnesses, set them up to get bred back, and boost milk production throughout lactation. This is a challenging time as most infectious and metabolic disorders occur during this period, which is why proper care during those three weeks before and three or four weeks after calving are so important.
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These are the premises that Phil Cardoso, University of Illinois, shared with listeners on the monthly Hoard's Dairyman webinar. His presentation, sponsored by Ajinomoto Heartland, was entitled "Fine-tuning transition cow care."
He presented data that challenged widely held beliefs such as milk output, itself, is responsible for negative energy balance after calving. However, he went on to clarify by noting that energy balance depends greatly on dry matter intake. Cardoso stressed that intake from late lactation and through the dry period to calving should not drastically change. The fresh cow needs a running start when she calves and not try to rev up feed intake and then milk production from a standing position.
He strongly urged producers to only have cows change body condition score by 0.5 for the entire lactation and dry period. "It is tough, but we really need to minimize the condition shifts," remarked Cardoso.
While some would think a cow that calves with low body condition will continue to be thin and always be struggling to keep weight on during lactation, that thought process is flawed. The thin cow will gain weight, reaching the desired body weight of a producing cow, approximately 2.75. And, as a result, will conceive dramatically sooner than cows that calved with too much condition.
Cardoso stressed that we pay attention to both crude and metabolizable protein in our transition rations. He also presented data that showed the positive affects of feeding of rumen-protected methionine. That additive has been shown to help get cows bred back and have less pregnancy loss as well as improve milk and milk component output.
Research has shown that feeding rumen-protected methionine resulted in larger follicles and healthier embryos that help cows maintain their pregnancy.
Learn more specifics by watching the archived webinar here.
The author is the online media manager and is responsible for the website, webinars and social media. A graduate of Modesto Junior College and Fresno State, she was raised on a California dairy and frequently blogs on youth programs and consumer issues.