Caring for cows on the move vital
Dairy farmers should take particular care when planning to transport cows in their third trimester of pregnancy, DairyNZ’s Dr Nita Harding says.
Dr Harding, who is DairyNZ’s development team leader for animal husbandry, said that at this time of year, many farmers were transporting cows with well-advanced pregnancies.
‘‘There are several things farmers should be aware of to make sure their pregnant cows arrive at their destination in the best possible condition,’’ Dr Harding said.
The key issue is to always make sure any cows to be transported have a body condition score of three or higher before transport.
‘‘In late pregnancy even cows that are in good condition are considerably more susceptible to the stress of transport and need to be treated with patience and care if they are being transported to another location.
‘‘Journeys should be as short as possible.’’
Careful planning was required before pregnant cows were transported.
‘‘Other than the duration of the journey, farmers should also consider their feed transition plan and ensure the cows receive an adequate supplement of magnesium before and after the journey,’’ she said. Twelve to 20 grams a day of magnesium supplement should also be provided to pregnant cows for at least three days before and three days after the journey.
All cows switching from one feed type to another requires a feed transition plan to give their digestive system time to adjust to the new feed, maintain their condition and minimise any nutritional problems.
Remember to consider a transition plan for coming home from winter grazing, as well as a plan for going to winter grazing.
New feed should be introduced into the diet over seven to 10 days before the journey, by gradually increasing the amount of the new feed or supplement made available. If this could not be done before transport, ensure there was pasture at the other end to transition cows from.
Dr Harding said cows in late pregnancy should be treated with patience and care when being brought in and loaded for transport. Before transport, cows should be moved off green feed for four to 12 hours (maximum) and provided with hay and water to reduce the amount of effluent produced during the journey and minimise nutritional stress. This was best done on a grazed out paddock or stand-off pad rather than on concrete.
‘‘It is recommended that cows should not be stood off on concrete for any more than four hours at a time,’’ she said. ‘‘Any longer is likely to lead to sore feet and legs, and potentially problems with lameness.’’ Remember to take as much care with unloading the animals at their destination. Food and water should be provided on arrival and the animals checked, especially for signs of bloat, about two hours after arrival.
Dr Harding said it was always useful to have someone who was skilled in transporting animals to supervise the process on the day of transport. Pregnant cows were valuable assets and worth looking after
properly,Dr Harding said.
Caution necessary: Pregnant cows are a valuable asset and care needs to be taken when transporting them.
Find more information on stock movement care at: dairynz.co.nz/ transportingstock.