Of all the changes that the transition cow endures, negative energy balance is one of the greatest and most difficult to overcome. That scenario sets the perfect stage for the question that University of Illinois’ Phil Cardoso posed attendees of the Illinois Dairy Summit.

What drives negative energy balance?

Did you say milk production? Because if you did, Cardoso would tell you you’re wrong.

“Milk has nothing to do with negative energy balance. Nothing,” he shared with the room of northern Illinois dairy producers.

Research backs up his statement showing cows at both high and low production can struggle equally to meet their energy requirements.

Cardoso explained that negative energy balance is directly driven by dry matter intake of the cow.

“If the cows eat more after calving or at three weeks after calving, they are going to have less negative energy balance,” he added. “So dry matter intake is very, very important for your transition cows.”

To that end, he shared 10 steps or measures for a successful transition period.

  1. Dry matter intake
  2. Body condition score
  3. Blood beta-hydroxybutyrate levels
  4. Urine pH
  5. The right diet
  6. Cow comfort related to activity
  7. Cow comfort related to hock score
  8. Number of cows culled before 60 days in milk
  9. Fecal score
  10. Dairy efficiency

Specifically, he focused in on three of these measures. Pushing dry matter intake lessens the negative energy balance of the cow as mentioned above.

Additionally, attentiveness to body condition scores allows a measure of where the cow’s at. He said producers should see less than half a condition score change across the lactation. Finally, Cardoso emphasized the importance of choosing and then delivering the right diet.

He concluded by reminding the room that success in the transition period results in healthier cows with better reproductive possibilities.

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(c) Hoard's Dairyman Intel 2017
March 13, 2017

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