Cornell’s Tom Overton challenged everyone to look at transition cows as an opportunity to transform dairy herds.
“Do not look at transition cows solely as a disease situation that must be managed,” said the New York-based dairy specialist. “View transition cows differently. Look at these cows as a production and reproduction opportunity.”
It’s well-documented that transition cows, those cows that move from the dry cow period to early lactation by giving birth to a calf, have the most health-based challenges in the dairy herd. The list is long, and from a nutrition standpoint, hypocalcemia may be No. 1.
“We know that cows with low blood calcium one to three days postcalving have lower immune function. Topping this list, milk fever and low blood calcium causes more cases of metritis. That in turn cascades into lower reproduction performance later in lactation,” Overton told those attending the Dairy Cattle Reproduction Council annual meeting in Columbus, Ohio.
“DCAD (Dietary Cation Anion Diets) may be the best tool in our toolbox to prime cows for calcium metabolism postcalving,” advised Overton. He explained that the practice of giving intravenous calcium provides only short-term relief. The better approach is preparing the cow’s body for vital organs to provide calcium through metabolic mechanisms.
While Overton prefers a two-group strategy for feeding dry cows, he understands that a one-group approach is more pragmatic on some farms.
“In either case, though, if you feed straw in dry cow diets, you must tub grind it to prevent sorting,” urged Overton. “Without grinding, the straw will be sorted and you will gain no benefit from the extra effort.”