The Irish dairy cow is working harder now than ever before, with longer lactations and shorter dry periods. In contrast to much of the global dairy herd, the predominant typical Irish dairy cow consumes her dietary requirements primarily from grazed and conserved grass, meaning that less concentrate is fed during the lactation.
As grazed grass is generally low in minerals and trace elements, and with concentrate mixtures generally supplemented with some level of minerals, spring calving grass based dairy cows can become quite depleted of minerals by the end of their lactation. It is therefore vital that the dry cow is supplemented with a high quality mineral throughout the entire dry period.
Following a dry cow management plan has proven very successful for Co. Westmeath farmer, Hugh Gaffney. Alongside his father, Mattie, Hugh is milking a herd of 120 British Friesian cows just outside Killucan, Co. Westmeath. The farm is run on a grass based, spring calving system, with bull and heifer calves later sold as stores.
According to Hugh, giving close consideration to good nutrition, careful management, and the addition of a high quality dry cow mineral has played a vital role in improving health and immunity in both his cows and new born calves.
VIDEO: TAKE A LOOK AT HUGH GAFFNEY’S DRY COW PROGRAMME:
Dry Cow Management Plan
How you feed and manage your herd during the dry cow period will influence subsequent yields and fertility, along with conditions which manifest post calving, such as milk fever, metritis, ketosis, and displaced abomasums.
A key part of Hugh’s dry cow management plan is monitoring body condition score (BCS), and correcting where necessary before calving. Hugh’s dry cows are batched according to BCS and cubicles are maintained in a clean hygienic manner throughout the dry period. It is best practice to dry off cows at, or close to, the best BCS for calving (3.00 – 3.25). It is also critical to maintain this condition score throughout the dry period.
Agritech recommend a silage quality target of at least 72DMD. In addition to receiving good quality forage and supplemental concentrate where necessary, Hugh’s cows are fed a minimum of 6kgs of Agritech’s Welmin™ Dry Cow Elite mineral before calving. This is viewed as critical in order to improve health and immunity and reduce the risk of metabolic disorders in his herd.
Dry Cow Elite
Key macro minerals required by the dry cow include high availability magnesium and trace elements such as organic selenium, chelated and hydroxy copper and zinc. Welmin™ Dry Cow Elite goes further than other dry cow supplements in terms of bolstering the cow’s immune system ahead of the rigours of calving through the inclusion of supplemental B vitamins, ImmunoWall yeast, and high levels of key vitamins A, D3 and E. This complete package is crucial in order to increase health and immunity, minimise retained placenta levels, and aid the uterine involution (cleansing) process post calving.
Addressing the bioavailability challenge
Agritech’s Welmin™ Mineral Range has also been at the forefront in addressing the bioavailability challenge; a challenge which has led to secondary mineral deficiencies becoming more prominent in modern livestock operations. These deficiencies are a result of antagonists binding with key minerals in the rumen, ultimately causing them to pass through the animal unabsorbed.
It is now widely accepted that the inclusion of elements from multiple sources significantly enhances the absorption of each element. Agritech have embraced this superior approach as their mineral range includes copper, selenium, iodine and zinc from multiple sources to ensure optimum bioavailability of these key elements.
Intellibond C is also included in many of Agritech’s mineral mixtures, which is a highly available source of copper. Intellibond C is not soluble at neutral rumen pH which results in a rumen by-pass trace element that gives increased trace mineral stability in the intestine. Copper from Intellibond C is released slowly over the full length of the small intestine, resulting in more efficient copper absorption and thereby improving overall intestinal health.