Moving cows is a very important activity and requires great attention. During fragile stages of their life cycle, pen moves will impact the cow's performance.
The Changes Of The Transition Period
A critical time period during cow's life cycle is during transition period.
This transition is around 6 weeks including 3 weeks before calving and 3 weeks after calf is born.
Many changes will occur during this period.
Pen moves during transition period can have negative impact on the amount of feed consumed by the cow.
During this period, cows will be less inclined to eat and pen moves will make dry matter intake decline even more.
Considerations Before Pen Moves
Avoid unnecessary pen moves:
The goal is to reduce stress during transition period.
When you maintain best possible environment, cows are more inclined to eat.
Avoid unnecessary pen changes if possible as each move will cause a drop in feed intake.
If moves are unavoidable, move the animals once a week and in groups of 10 animals or more.
Group the cows correctly:
One of the reason the cows eat less is due to animal dominance especially when younger females are grouped with older cows.
Separate younger cows from older ones to encourage feed intake and minimise dominance of older cows.
Following Pen Moves
Dry matter intake:
Dry matter intake will decrease after pen moves. Therefore, pay attention and ensure their appetites return quickly.
If individual cows are not eating, immediately inform herd manager so that the animal can be examined and treated.
How much milk a cow produce will also depend on how she responds to a pen change.
Ensure that high quality ration is delivered to the herd so that they have sufficient nutrients for peak performance.
Ensure all cows have ample bunk space, access to clean water at all time and are not stressed out.
Protocols For Feeding During Pen Change
It is important to have a plan before pen moves. Questions to ask include:
Is it necessary that pen moves occur?
How can we reduce stress on the animals during pen moves?
Is there ample bunk space for the cows?
Are cows having access to clean and fresh water at all times?
During critical stages of a cow's lactation stage such as transition period, how they are treated during moves and how they respond to their environment can directly impact their performance.