Properly formulated ration is crucial during transition period for the cows. However, the best ration in the world is no good if the animals do not receive it. This happens due to several reasons and the end result is usually lower performance and less healthy cows in the following lactation.
Transition nutrition requirements
Prefresh rations usually contain more protein, energy and minerals compared to dry cow rations.
The main goal is to prepare the cows for lactation as well as maintaining proper body condition.
It is important not to overfeed or underfeed when it comes to energy.
Optimal range would be from 100 to 110 percent of a cow's metabolise energy requirement.
It is a balancing act as cows that receive insufficient or too much energy prior to calving will experience more metabolic challenges after calving.
It is crucial for the rations to contain sufficient metabolise protein (MP) levels as well as it supplies amino acids for the cows to growth, maintain body condition and produce more milk.
During transition period, cow's needs are increasing but at the same time the dry matter intake (DMI) decreases.
Hence, it is important to ensure proper ration mixing and feed delivery to cows in the prefresh pens.
If prefresh ration is not evenly mixed, cows will exhibit variation in urine pHs and intake of MP, which will affect the health of the cow.
It is crucial for the cows to receive properly formulated, mixed and delivered prefresh rations for a sufficient period of time.
The goal should be to feed the prefresh diet for a minimum of 3 weeks.
Studies have shown that feeding transition diet for at least 3 weeks prepartum had a significant impact on the cow's health and metabolic disease incidence.
Long term effects
Sufficient time on properly formulated prefresh diets also helps to improve reproductive performance.
Studies have shown that 60% of cows that received the prefresh diet for 20 or more days were pregnant 20 days sooner than cows fed the diet for less than 10 days prepartum.
These improvements also include a combination of improved nutrition and feed intake postpartum, less metabolic problems and fewer postpartum diseases.
It is easy to believe that a week does not make much difference to a cow.
However, as studies have shown, insufficient time spent on prefresh diet will cause a lot of problems for the cows after calving.
It is crucial to monitor and manage variation in days in the close up pen as well as manage feed mixing and delivery.
If your current facilities makes it difficult to deliver prefresh diet, consider modifying your nutrition plan so that transition cows have access to the prefresh diet as long as possible.
It should be your goal to make sure at least 90% of the animals spend enough time on the close up diet.
Monitor the time spent on prefresh diet and ration variation over time to make sure your protocols stay on target to ensure high performance fresh cows.