Time is likely to lead to other problems
lead to acidosis where high levels of concentrates are fed. Concentrates should be introduced very gradually, especially where transition feeding is not practiced. Rumen ph samples from sample herds tested by UCD indicated that cows in a quarter of herds may suffer from sub-acute (usually with no symptoms) acidosis. This often leads to laminitis, reduces feed intake, causes negative energy balance, excess loss of body condition in early lactation, and reduces mounting behaviour. Nutrition related health problems such as sub-acute acidosis are among the most underestimated problems on Irish dairy farms. Infertility, mastitis, lameness and production problems are very obvious to farmers, but there are many other very serious health problems associated with having dry cows being over-fed or underfed, or not being properly supplemented with minerals/ trace elements.
These include diseases such as milk fever, ketosis, fatty liver, acidosis, retained placentas, metritis, difficult calvings, laminitis, lameness, mastitis and displaced abomasums.
And up to 90% of losses associated with some of these diseases can be sub-clinical or sub-acute, and therefore may not be obvious to farmers, but still cost them a lot of profits. About 5-7% of cows get clinical milk fever, where they may go down and require veterinary treatment. However, 20-39% of cows can be affected by sub-clinical milk fever around calving and later, with the following symptoms;
Retained placenta/slow calving; Low feed intakes after calving;
Reduced immune system; Delayed ovulation after calving and reduced fertility; Low blood calcium for up to 45 days after calving.
It is likely that sub clinical milk fever is causing a lot of unexplained problems on dairy farms.
Where problems are suspected, they should be thoroughly investigated with blood tests etc.
Every farmer should have a milk fever control strategy. This should include regular body condition scoring, ensuring magnesium supplement is fed (0.4% of diet), and limiting access to high-k and high-n foraged.
The average Irish silage has 2.3% K but ideally forage should have less than 1.8% K. Ideally, silage should be tested so that proper dietary requirements for all stock can be formulated.
Dry cow diets should be properly supplemented with high quality minerals and trace elements (Teagasc formulations), especially for six weeks before calving. Cows should have sufficient bulk in their diet, and concentrates should be introduced to their diets a few weeks before calving.
This reduces the period of inadequate intake before and after calving.
National Dairy Show 2018: show judge Edward Griffiths and award sponsor John Hourigan, Peatbedding.ie, and handler Sarah Shannon, with Gabriel Rose 2090, owned by Robert Shannon, best Jersey heifer born in 2018 .