Benefits Of Keeping Fresh Group Small
Fresh cows often face management as well as housing changes soon after giving birth. A recent study have shown that keeping group size small in the fresh pen reduces competition for feed and freestalls. This will help improve dairy cow welfare during this sensitive time.
Smaller group size post calving reduces competition
When a cow is introduced to a new group, she will typically encounter aggression from other cows and may face problems accessing feed and freestalls due to competition.
In a smaller group, existing cows in the group will be less inclined to show aggressive behavior to establish dominance.
This will reduce the competition among cows and allows the new cow to have a smoother transition to a new group.
It is also encouraged to only move the cows to new group after they had a chance to feed at their normal feeding time to reduce aggression.
Cows take time to transition to new fresh pen
Regardless of group size, it is found that cows had the lowest feed intake and lying time on the day they were moved into fresh pen compared with the next few days.
The low fed intake and low lying time on the first day showed that it is crucial to have ample resources - feeding and lying space available to the cows during the first day of moving to a new group.
Since fresh cows nee more rest to recover from labor, understocking combined with small group sizes will help ensure fresh cows are getting sufficient lying time.
Sick cows are least likely to compete
Before cows were moved into the fresh pen, they were examined to determine their health status.
Regardless of group size, sick cows generally ate less and engage in fewer displacements from freestalls compared with healthy cows.
Hence, this shows that sick animals will benefit greatly from fresh pens that give them ample space to feed and rest.
Designing your fresh pen around the cow
Studies have shown that there is a need to think about fresh pen or any pen a cow is entering soon after giving birth, from the perspective of the cow.
The cow has recently undergone a painful labor and is trying her best to navigate in a new social environment which may affect her feed intake and rest.
Having smaller fresh pen where the cows can adapt to new environment before entering large pen is one way to help the cows cope with their struggles during the transition.