Although spring 2022 may seem a distance away, decisions around main herd nutrition over the next number of weeks will dictate how successful the calving period will be.
The aim in any spring calving herd is to achieve a calving season free from metabolic issues such as milk fever, ketosis, displaced abomasum, retained placenta, and reduced or delayed fertility. Therefore, ample planning is essential regarding correct dry cow nutrition and mineral provision.
Late Lactation Nutrition
Late lactation is the optimum time to manipulate body condition. Cows should be in a positive energy balance and be confirmed pregnant at this stage. Ideally, cows would be dried off in the same body condition as they aim to calve down in, resulting in a maintenance diet being provided to the dry cows.
Where cows have a BCS < 3.0, energy intake needs to increase. It is more cost-effective to build BCS now while a cow is milking. However, where cows are still below target BCS 80-90 days pre-calving (<2.75), these cows should be dried off early and fed accordingly to assist in achieving target BCS at calving.
Dry Cow Nutrition Planning
Silage quality analysis will dictate dry cow feeding regimes. Where quality is high, dilution of energy using straw may be required. Where cows are below target BCS or forage quality is poor, supplementation may be required.
A dry cow’s mineral requirements are not being met via grass silage alone, therefore key macro and trace elements must be provided for an entire 60-day period to ensure she has a problem free calving. Mineral analysis of silage coupled with a herd history of deficiencies and/or metabolic issues experienced on farm can also create the basis for tailored dry cow mineral plans.
In Irish systems, feed space is often a limiting factor regarding dry cow mineral provision and supplementation where a TMR option is not available. Minerals can be provided via a diet feeder where being used on farm, or alternatively top-dressed over silage. If top-dressing silage with powdered mineral and feed space is limited, offer the mineral twice daily (half rate am/half rate pm) to ensure all cows receive the required amount.
Considerations around winter housing facilities should also be planned now, especially where cows are required to be batched depending on BCS.
Need help and advice?
For further information on dry cow nutrition planning, contact your local Agritech Sales Advisor.