A good transition diet is key for stress free calving and success in the milking herd

A good transition diet is key for stress free calving and success in the milking herd

1 May 2017

A cow’s nutrition pre-calving affects the way it performs in the milking herd and to give cows the best possible start, they need a diet that meets their micro-nutrient needs.

As one Waikato farmer found out, getting the right vitamins and minerals into cows prior to calving really pays off further down the track.

There are two things to focus on when transitioning the herd into the next lactation.

As well as monitoring body condition score (BCS), making sure they have the right balance of vitamins and minerals means less metabolic and health problems.

Feeding supplementary feeds in late lactation and over the dry period is one strategy to achieve optimum BCS. Getting the vitamins and minerals right to prevent metabolic disorders and cow health problems like milk fever require a targeted transition programme directly before calving.

Atiamuri Dairy farmer Andrew Parker discovered this himself when he changed his transition programme in the 2016 dairy season. Previously, Andrew’s cows were having lots of health issues around calving which were wreaking havoc on his in-calf rates (which had slipped to a 13% empty rate).

Biopsies revealed a widespread level of liver damage in the then 850 cow herd, with about 8 cows in every 10 showing some signs of damage ranging from mild to severe.

“We were getting cows just losing weight rapidly and dropping dead for no apparent reason, and all the vet could put it down to was liver failure,” says Andrew.

Andrew and his manager had grown familiar with gearing themselves up for stressful calving periods, spending their days moving between cows having trouble calving, and downers that were part of the farm scenery over the spring months.

“We would typically have six to 10 cows every single day over calving go down with milk fever, all up I think 30% of the herd had it.”

Getting in touch with Sollus rep Erin Stables proved to be a good move to change the health outcomes for the herd, and stress levels for Andrew.

“It was recommended we consider using Tranzsol for our transition cows, switching to Lactisol when they are in milking.”

A complete transition mineral supplement, Tranzsol is fed for 14 days prior to calving and contains calcium, magnesium and vitamin D in a bioavailable form to the cow. The product provides enough calcium to the cow’s diet so that she isn’t stripping it from her bones and teeth – improving the cow’s overall health and supporting effective milk production.

A year and a half later, calving is a much less stressful time for Andrew.

“We really did not change anything that year other than add in Tranzsol, and it made a significant difference.”

He has witnessed milk fever problems drop away and the persistent calving problems have also diminished. This season he also only assisted 20 cows out of 1,000.

Now well into his second lactation, Andrew is seeing the herd’s somatic cell count fall (indicative of lower stress and infection levels) along with lameness incidence, as the cows mobilise vital calcium for bone and hoof health.

He said on reflection it made sense to provide cows with a source of calcium prior to calving, rather than expecting them to rely upon mobilising their skeletal calcium alone to get through the high stress, high demand period.

To find out more about transitioning your herd with Tranzsol, contact your local Agrifeeds Animal Nutrition Sales Rep or call 0800 424 743.

Article supplied by Agrifeeds