Why cow condition is more important than ever

Why cow condition is more important than ever

1 November 2020

This highly unusual year has created many challenges to compete for dairy farmers’ attention, including severe droughts through to flooding and the complications of Covid-19, along with repercussions on cow condition scores. However, the current situation can be overcome with a prudent strategy to maximise production. Find out why nutritional support remains a cornerstone of success.

There’s no denying this season is unlike any other. Climatic challenges and the raft of changes in the wake of Covid-19 have seen targets slip, resulting in feed deficits and a heightened sense of risk across the farming community.

While the extent and impact of these factors were unforeseeable, the way forward revolves largely around known entities; improving cow condition scores, adopting sound nutritional strategies, and effective pasture management.

“It’s the perfect time to prioritise cow health with a view to maximise production,” says SealesWinslow Science Extension Officer Paul Sharp. He considers it the most sensible response to this situation.

It’s also timely because it ties in with the seasonal focus on peak milk levels, the reliable indicator for the season’s success. Keep in mind that every additional litre produced during peak milk means an additional 200 litres for the remaining season.

Quantity and quality of balanced feed

“Making up for feed deficits is as crucial as ensuring feed quality,” Paul recommends. “Supplement as necessary and make sure to balance energy, protein and mineral requirements to drive production as well as intakes.”

He highlights that a cow’s dietary demand during this time surpasses her ability to consume feed. “The key is to minimise body condition score losses in order to improve reproductive performance and fertility.”

Achieving a balance of nutrients means addressing the attributes of spring pasture – excessive protein and insufficient carbohydrates. At five percent to 15 percent of soluble carbohydrates, it’s a far cry from the ideal 30 percent; in fact, it may barely meet the 10 percent threshold that maintains normal rumen function.

“That’s why supplementing with a soluble carbohydrate, such as starch, is ideal for optimising the spring pasture diet,” Paul says. “You’ll effectively plug the feed gap and drive production when protein levels are high.”

To ensure good results, it pays to select products with optimum feed conversion efficiency.

“Quality ingredients and impeccable processing are among the factors that improve digestibility. It ensures that the animal derives maximum value from the feed,” Paul says.

SealesWinslow’s Hi Starch is a superb feed option that ticks all boxes; high-quality ingredients with the right carbohydrate boost help achieve and maintain peak milk production levels.

Protein and minerals

While spring pasture can reach 30 percent protein levels, dietary requirements for cows are much lower at around 20 percent with the surplus protein excreted as urinary nitrogen (N). A herbage test is invaluable for identifying accurate protein levels and helps in selecting the best feeds to add to the diet. Testing may even reveal protein as a limiting factor and trigger the need for a tailored pellet, such as SealesWinslow’s Maxi Pro. It provides the right amount of rumen bypass protein as well as starch.

Lastly, the importance of macro and micro minerals can’t be overemphasised. They are crucial for achieving peak milk potential, however, are often insufficiently available in spring pasture. Top of the list are magnesium (Mg) and calcium (Ca) for animal health, reproduction and production. Similarly valuable at this time are copper (Cu), cobalt (Co), zinc (Zn), iodine (I) and selenium (Se).

With an optimal level of nutrients and minerals, you’ll address your herd’s nutritional requirements while mitigating potential animal health issues. What’s more, it’ll give you peace of mind to address other areas of your farming business.

For more information visit www.sealeswinslow.co.nz or talk to your local Farm Source representative.

Article supplied by SealesWinslow