Feeding fresh cows have been an ongoing challenge for dairy farmers throughout the years. Little research is done on the nutritional needs of fresh cows to sustain the health and milk production of the cows.
Challenges of feeding fresh cows:
Biggest challenge in formulating diet for fresh cows is to get the cows to consume sufficient feed to sustain high energy status that will support milk production while at the same time avoiding any metabolic diseases and negative energy balance.
Most important nutrient in a fresh cow diet besides water is calories.
The fresh cow energy requirements increase significantly immediately after calving.
Hence, farmers will need to maximise feed intake of the diet that incorporates a high energy density per weight of feed while maintaining a rumen forage mat that supports microbial fermentation.
The cow's rumen condition has to be in top condition to maximise dry matter intake.
Starch is also important to assist in production of volatile fatty acid propionate which is a major component in the production of blood glucose.
There is also a fine line between too much starch in a rumen as it contributes to various levels of acidosis and not enough starch and energy to support high milk production.
The challenge is for the nutritionist to find a balance between cost effectiveness and health ramifications of an energy dense diet with high levels of starch that does not negatively impact the health and productivity of the cow later in the lactation.
When formulating diets for fresh cows, more attention should be paid to NDF value of the ration and not allowing the ration NDF to drop below 30% DM.
It is also advisable to keep fresh heifers segregated from older cows when transitioning into milking herds to minimise potential for metabolic problems.
A conservative target for starch in the fresh cow diet should be around 25% of total DM as too much starch in the diet will affect the cow's health.
It is also encourage to feed some amounts of rumen protected fat to maintain metaobolised energy.
Fresh cow diets should be formulated to contain high quality forages with high digestible NDF levels as well as sufficient uNDF for maximum fermentation and a strong microbial population that will minimise metabolic diseases.
Dairy management should closely follow diet recommendations and willingness to adhere to stringent dietary guidelines when trying to push the starch levels in fresh cow diets.