Dry cows di­ets: too fat can be as bad as too thin

Irish Examiner - Farming - - DAIRY SECTOR - Joe Sheehy All cows should be at con­di­tion score 3 to 3.25 as soon as pos­si­ble af­ter dry­ing off, and main­tained at this con­di­tion un­til calv­ing.

Un­suit­able dry cow nutri­tion in­creases culling rates, metabolic dis­eases, lame­ness and mas­ti­tis.

It re­duces fer­til­ity, milk yields and milk com­po­si­tion, and has enor­mous po­ten­tial to re­duce farm prof­its. Re­searchers and suc­cess­ful dairy farm­ers now re­gard nutri­tion and man­age­ment in the dry pe­riod as more im­por­tant and more dif­fi­cult than dur­ing the milk­ing pe­riod. Many suc­cess­ful farm­ers are putting a lot of ef­fort into de­vel­op­ing an ef­fec­tive man­age­ment plan for their dry cows.

The aim is to have cows dry­ing off at con­di­tion score 3 to 3.25, and in the same con­di­tion when they calve down. Ad­e­quate en­ergy, min­er­als and trace el­e­ments are very im­por­tant.

Feed com­pa­nies have helped to de­velop spe­cific feed­ing and man­age­ment sys­tems for the dry cow pe­riod, which are de­signed to en­sure that each cow gets her re­quire­ments.

Hav­ing cows too fat can be as bad as too thin.

All cows should be at con­di­tion score 3 to 3.25 as soon as pos­si­ble af­ter dry­ing off, and main­tained at this con­di­tion un­til calv­ing. Prob­lems as­so­ci­ated with cows that are too fat dur­ing the dry pe­riod are: Long pe­ri­ods of low in­takes and neg­a­tive en­ergy af­ter calv­ing. In­creased chances of milk fever, fatty liver, ke­to­sis, dif­fi­cult calv­ing, re­tained pla­centa and dis­placed abo­ma­sum. 30% lower feed in­take, and lower pro­duc­tion in early lac­ta­tion.

Pic­tures: Maria Kelly

Na­tional Dairy Show 2018: show judge Ed­ward Grif­fiths, left, with Gearoid Kenny, Herd­watch (award spon­sor) and han­dler Michael Blake with Knock­brown Ha­gley Eileen, owned by the O’sul­li­van fam­ily, best heifer born af­ter Fe­bru­ary 2018, and be­low with han­dler Jack Walsh and John Cough­lan and Tom Phe­lan, IFA (award spon­sor), with Cap­pavilla Ce­celia 12 owned by John & M Leahy, best con­fined heifer in milk.

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