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With most Irish dairy herds calving in the months of February and March, now is a very important time to apply some key practices that will influence the 2020 lactation.

The key influencers of a productive and profitable 2020 lactation are:

  • Body condition score
  • Udder health
  • Stress free drying off

BODY CONDITION SCORE

Body condition score (BCS) is the foundation for a successful start to the cow’s lactation. The ideal BCS score range is 3.0 to 3.25 in most herds. Cows calving down in this range experience less metabolic issues in early lactation e.g. milk fever, metritis, displaced abomasums.

A simple system to manage BCS for the dry period is to divide cows into three groups:

Group 1: Cows in the 3.0 to 3.25 range. This group should be stocked at one cow per cubicle and fed silage to maintain body condition, e.g. 12 kg of silage to provide 6 UFL/ day.
Group 2: Cows in this group are under 3.0 BCS. This group should be stocked at 90% of a shed’s capacity. This reduces competition for feed space and promotes a more relaxed environment that will encourage live-weight gain in the cow. This group should receive high quality silage or meal to provide 8+ UFL/day.
Group 3: Cows in this group are over 3.25 BCS. This group need to either maintain BCS or lose some body weight. This group should be stocked at a slightly higher shed stocking rate e.g. 110% of a shed’s capacity, which will create a little more competition within the group for feed and space. This group should be on a restricted silage diet to provide less than 5.5 UFL/day. However, additional roughage should be provided to ensure the cow achieves optimum rumen fill.

Note:
• It is important that all groups are monitored regularly to ensure they reach the optimum BCS of 3.0 to 3.25. Cows should be moved from their groups if they are moving outside this range.
• It is critical that a dry cow mineral is provided to each of the above groups. A dry cow should receive a minimum of 6 kg of dry cow minerals in advance of calving in order to ensure that she is adequately replenished and prepared for calving and next year’s lactation. Click here to view our Welmin Mineral Range.
• It is essential to provide fresh clean water adlib.
• All cows should be moved from their groups 14 days pre-calving to a transition group where they are introduced to an increased energy and protein diet.

Cows lying down in cubicles

UDDER HEALTH

With an increasing pressure to reduce antibiotic use in the dry period, shed hygiene is becoming ever more important during the dry period. Factors which promote a hygienic environment include:

1) Adequate lying space (1 cubicle per cow).
2) Adequate feed space.
3) Adequate ventilation.
4) Adlib fresh clean water.

In addition to this, most Irish dairy farms use a bedding conditioner on cubicles. A good bedding conditioner should meet the following criteria:

• Highly absorbent to control bacteria growth.
• Be kind on both the farmer and animal’s skin.
• Absorbs ammonia odours to help air quality and reduce stress on the animal’s lungs.
• Easy to apply in a low volume per square meter.
• Contains effective antibacterial properties.

A good example is Sanitise Bedding Conditioner, which is designed to promote a dry hygienic environment in the bedding of all livestock. This product goes above and beyond traditional methods due to its low application rate as well as the inclusion of high quality essential oils, antibacterial properties, and a unique hoof conditioner. Click here to view our Sanitise Bedding Conditioner.


For further advice on any of the above areas discussed, contact your local Agritech distributor or sales representative.

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