Finding The Right Balance For Transition Cows
One of the most discussed topics in the dairy industry is how farmers can improve transition cow management to reduce health issues.
The failure of transition cows can be due to several reasons:
Losing too much or gaining too little weight in the dry cow pen.
Receiving too much or too little energy in the dry cow ration.
Feeding too much grain.
Suffering from too much overcrowding or too little cow comfort.
Receiving too much potassium.
Not having sufficient dry matter intake.
Spending too little time in the dry pen.
Not having enough fiber and protein in the diet.
To combat the problems faced during transition cow diet:
The diet should have no more than 3.6 kg of corn silage dry matter.
No added starch into the diet.
Diet should contain around 1.8 - 2.7 kg of dry, high quality, low energy straw.
Diet should have around 11.8 to 13.6 kg of dry matter intake and 1,200 grams of metabolizable protein in order to boost colostrum production.
Net energy lactation levels should be 1.28 and 1.36 Mcal per kg.
Forage neutral detergent fiber levels should range from 40 - 44%.
The neutral detergent fiber forage intake should be around 5.4 to 5.9 kg.
Magnesium should be around 0.4% and the magnesium-to-potassium ratio should be in the 1-to-4 ratio range in order to avoid grass tetany.
While diet is important, there are also other areas that needs troubleshooting:
Farmer must ensure sorting is minimized while feeding bulky forages.
Provide sufficient high quality water at all times.
Provide enough bunk space of around 30 inches per animal so that the cows can access their strict dietary needs during their transition period while maximizing bunk space.
Keep the cows in their ideal thermoneutral zone. The less heat stress a cow experience, the better her performance will be.
Transition cows should be allowed a dry period of at least 6 weeks.
If cows are given less than 6 weeks, their body will not have enough time to prepare for calving.
However, any more than 12 weeks might allow the bovine to develop excess fat, leading to metabolic diseases.
In a successful transition cow program, it is crucial to confront the problems before they occur. Proper nutrition with sufficient feeding space, cooling and proper length of dry off period will reduce health issues of dry cows and create healthier and high performing dairy cows.