Having your herd in optimal condition score at calving is one of the main drivers towards achieving excellent reproductive performance.
Studies have shown that the desired range of condition scores is to have the majority of the herd between 5.0 and 5.5. No more than 15 per cent of the herd should be below 5.0 and no more than 15 per cent above 5.5.
Cows should be monitored now and dried off according to their condition so they achieve these targets.
Trying to put condition onto cows after June 1 is difficult, so the aim should be to have cows reaching these targets by June 1 with the aim of at least being able to maintain condition through the winter, if things get tight.
As a rule of thumb, the guide on page 65 of The InCalf Book from DairyNZ can be used to assess when cows should be dried off. The book is a free from DairyNZ. To order a copy visit their website www. dairynz. co. nz or phone 0800 4 DAIRYNZ (0800 4 324 7969).
There are issues this year that are likely to have an impact on drying off decision, one being the payout.
With projections of the payout being extremely good, there is no doubt a temptation to milk cows for as long as possible.
The downside of this policy is having cows calve in less than desired condition with poorer production and poorer reproductive performance likely in spring.
It may be that the payout next season will be less. Is having your herd producing poorly in a lower payout a wise move?
Cows will naturally lose weight in early lactation. This is a physiological change in the cow and will occur regardless of how much feed you are offering. Please refer to page 56 of The Incalf Book from DairyNZ.
The aim is to minimise this loss by maintaining good feeding levels and by having the herd in a high enough body condition at the start of the calving. A cow calving at a 5.0 condition score will cycle on average one to two weeks earlier than a cow at condition score 4.0.
Recommended score times ( based DairyNZ and InCalf guidelines)
1. End of mating to check where the herd is trending
2. Late lactation 3 to 4 months before PSC (dry off decisions)
3. Just before PSC – have you achieved your targets?
4. Two weeks before PSM to assess condition loss after calving
The aim should be to have your herd in the desired band throughout the year. For more information or to book your herd in for a condition score please contact Matamata Veterinary Services on 888 8197.
Cows: Condition can be scored individually or a mob count can be done by walking through the herd while they are grazing.