Prevention of metabolic disorders next spring will hinge around management decisions that will be made over the next number of weeks. When costs associated with clinical cases are assessed alongside the time and labour involved in such cases, prevention is always better than cure.
Body Condition Score (BCS)
It is best practice to dry off cows at, or close to the same condition that she should calve down in (target BCS 3.0-3.25). Therefore, the nutrition of the dry cow should just maintain condition over the 60-day dry period. Thin cows should be dried off early to allow for recuperation of condition, while over-conditioned cows at calving can be problematic. Therefore, cows should be condition scored prior to drying off to make a tailored plan for the herd, which may include grouping cows according to BCS where there is a large variation in the herd.
Silage Quality- The Decision Factor
Feed Plans for the dry cow will centre around the quality of silage available. High-quality silage will need dilution with straw to avoid over-conditioning or where quality is very low, some level of energy supplementation will be required.
Testing dry cow silage reserves will illustrate feed requirements. Where issues around calving occurred last spring, it is also worthwhile carrying out a silage mineral analysis to highlight any precursors.
Dry Cow Mineral Provision
Feeding a dry cow mineral throughout the dry period is essential to build mineral reserves and allow the cow to calve down without any issues. Most Irish silage lack the required mineral levels to get the cow through the dry period, leading to the provision of a high-quality mineral supplement to avoid metabolic disease risks.
High Phosphorous (K) levels in Irish silages is a running trend, which will require a high level of soluble magnesium a single case of milk fever is estimated to cost ~ €312; with sub-clinical cases estimated to cost herd >€100/case. It is also estimated that for every clinical case that manifests itself on farm, 6 sub- clinical cases go undetected.
For more advice on metabolic disorder prevention, contact your local Agritech Sales Advisor.