We are extremely particular about the nutrient balance in our prefresh and postfresh rations,” explained Paul Colgan of Patterson Farms. “From our vantage point, when another dairy owner mentions they have metabolic issues and/or fresh cow problems, it almost always has its genesis in the cow’s dry period,” he went on to say.
“We have a far-off dry ration and a prefresh ration. The target days carried calf (DCC) for bred heifers to get moved into the prefresh group is 243; it’s 250 days for the cows,” said Colgan, speaking on behalf of Patterson Farms, which was one of the six herds to earn Platinum status in this year’s Dairy Cattle Reproductive Council’s awards competition. All the farm’s nutrition work is done by the nutrition team that includes Jeff Tikofsky and Ranatta Young.
“Our fresh cow monitoring strategy is simple: We utilize the SCR rumination tags, and we let the cows be cows. Each animal gets its ear tag when entering the prefresh pen, and 99% of the postfresh animals have their tags removed by 14 days in milk (DIM).
“Until we purchased the system in 2018, the fresh cows were in headlocks once a day getting specific physicals depending on the respective DIM,” said the Auburn, N.Y., dairy farm manager. “Now, if the cow looks great and its rumination rates are high, we don’t interfere with its regular routine.”
All six of this year’s Platinum winners of the Dairy Cattle Reproduction Council’s awards share additional insight in this Hoard’s Dairyman Intel as well as the Round Table found on pages 675 to 678 of the November issue of Hoard’s Dairyman. This year’s competition drew the second-largest set of nominations to date — 107.
Here are additional responses to the question, “How do you manage fresh cows?”
Davis Family Dairies, Nicollet, Minn.: We have a solid dry cow and fresh cow nutrition program that prevents most metabolic diseases and related calving issues. If the dry cow ration is dialed in, cows won’t drop intakes in the fresh pen and therefore don’t peel off condition like they would if rations were out of balance.
Hendriks Dairies, Brucefield, Ontario: Our farm focuses on prevention — we have dry cows housed on straw packs in our tunnel-ventilated barn, give them plenty of space, and feed them a “Goldilocks” ration. We began using selective dry cow therapy in our herd over a year ago. The only first-lactation cows that receive dry cow treatment are those that had mastitis or a somatic cell count (SCC) over 200,000 cells per milliliter. At the moment, all second and greater lactation cows receive intramammary dry cow treatment.
All third or greater lactation cows receive a calcium bolus after calving, and our clinically “treated milk fevers” are less than 2%. All fresh cows stay on a bedded pack for seven days postcalving and are then moved to either a mature group or two-year group. Feet are trimmed at dry-off and before 120 days in milk (DIM). No footbaths are used.
High Noon Dairy, Hereford, Texas: Fresh cows and fresh heifers are housed in their own pen. We check temperatures on all postcalving cows for a minimum of 10 days.
All fresh cows and heifers are milked at the beginning of each eight-hour milking shift. They are milked by the fresh cow crew to get a hands-on assessment prior to checking them in the corral.
Minimizing body condition loss starts in the dry pens by maintaining good intakes and having minimal calving-related issues.
Holmesville Dairy, Argyle, Wis.: Once our cows calve, we drench them as soon as we can; it’s always within 24 hours. Our drench is calcium and 12 ounces of propylene glycol with 5 gallons of lukewarm water. We give each cow vitamin B12 and oxytocin to help prevent retained placenta. If we have a cow that has a retained placenta after 12 hours, we use Excenel for three to four days to treat metritis. We also monitor fresh cows daily for off-feed cows.
Cows are vaccinated two weeks after calving with Bovi-Shield Gold FP 5 L5 HB for reproductive disease.
We also dry off cows carrying twins earlier to try and achieve a longer 70-day dry cow period to better maintain their body condition.
Riverside Dairy, Reedsville, Wis.: Depending on age and lactation, cows are given supplemental calcium at calving and followed up 12 to 24 hours postcalving. As for the calcium supplementation . . . a little time and money goes a long way as you only get one shot to get it right. Cows that deliver twin calves are milked once for colostrum and returned to the maternity pen for 24 hours. Those cows receive a blue chalk mark on their tailhead and are checked daily for temperature until 10 to 14 DIM.
We take a proactive versus reactive approach to this area and treat animals immediately for metritis or pneumonia, as a delay in treatment leads to reduced dry matter and caloric intake, triggering hypocalcemia and even ketosis. The same approach is taken toward monitoring ketosis.
Cows are checked for ketosis starting at 3 DIM and heifers at 5 DIM on alternate days. Animals showing signs of ketosis are drenched daily with propylene glycol. Total mixed ration (TMR) is delivered by 3:30 a.m. prior to returning from the parlor followed by routine feed pushes throughout the day. Slow-to-start or sluggish postcalving cows are pumped and are monitored for intakes and behavior. Once animals reach 14 DIM and are doing well, they receive a pink chalk mark. This allows us to focus on the critical cows, reducing lockup time.
This Hoard’s Dairyman Intel article is part of a three-part series detailing top reproduction tips from the Platinum winning herds for the thirteenth annual Dairy Cattle Reproduction Council awards competition.