Prevention of metabolic disorders next spring will hinge around management decisions that will be made in the coming weeks. When costs associated with clinical cases are assessed alongside the time and labour involved in such cases, prevention is always better than cure.
It remains best practice to dry off cows at, or very close to the same condition that they should calve down in (target BCS 3.0-3.25). Nutrition over the dry period targeting maintenance – with thin cows ideally dried off early to permit BCS recouperation –typically equates to 68-70% DMD silage in an adlib silage feeding scenario. However, one should always be mindful that over conditioned cows at calving are troublesome and can be linked with several metabolic issues.
Dry Cow Mineral Provision
Feeding a dry cow mineral throughout the dry period is essential to build up mineral reserves and allows the cow to calve down comfortably. High Potassium (K) levels in silages is very common, which requires dilution of K levels in the diet and/or a high level of soluble Magnesium (Mg) to counter the increased risk of milk fever. High levels of K limits Mg absorption, delaying the release of Calcium (Ca) and increases the incidence of milk fever. Grass silage with greater than 1.8% K can cause issues.
Sub-clinical cases of milk fever are being estimated to cost greater than €100 with approximately six sub-clinical cases going undetected for every single clinical case seen. This typically presents through slow calving and/or retained afterbirths. Where this has proven an issue, a silage mineral analysis establishes K% in the dry cow silage being offered. A preventative plan can then be put in place to preclude reoccurrences.
When there’s limited feed space for dry cows, and where minerals are being dusted on top of silage, some cows may not be benefiting from the advised feed rate. Minerals can be offered via diet feeder or alternatively where top-dressing minerals at the barrier and space is limited, offer minerals twice daily (half rate AM/half rate PM) to ensure all cows receive the correct amount.
Learn more about our Welmin Dry Cow Mineral Range.
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