Transition period is extremely important in determining future health, milk production and reproductive success of dairy cows. Cows in each phase have different requirements. Here are a few guidelines that can greatly improve profitability:
Far-off dry cows
Diets are recommended to contain about 1.35 Mcal NE per kilogram of dry matter.
Feed wheat straw or high neutral detergent fiber grass hay with corn silage and grain to provide minimal but sufficient energy.
Provide at least 12% crude protein in the diet.
Body condition score (BCS) throughout the dry period should be around 3 to 3.25 on a scale of 1 - 5.
Offer plenty of heat abatement to minimize heat stress.
Prevent dry cows from congregating in areas of the field for far too long and creating mud holes where bacteria can multiply.
Close up dry cows
Feed a low potassium diet with appropriate amounts of anionic salts to reduce the chances of developing clinical and subclinical milk fever.
Check urine pH to predict the calcium status of cows at calving and monitor the effectiveness of anionic ration.
Provide sufficient forage to fill the rumen and encourage cud chewing.
Keep the cows eating before calving.
To minimize competition, provide feedbunk space of at least 36 inches per cow with post and rail feedbunks and 30 inches with headlocks.
To reduce stress, stocking rate should be around 80% in freestall barns and stalls should have the dimensions to accommodate close-up dry cows.
Body condition score should be 3 to 3.25 on the scale of 1 to 5.
Minimize heat stress by using fans and sprinklers.
Transfer cows into the close-up pen groups once weekly.
The inclusion of feed additives like rumensin, yeast or protected choline is good to provide nutrients for the mammary gland and prevent metabolic disorders.
Monitor cows frequently to make sure they are eating and for metabolic issues.
Do not house fresh cows with sick cows.
Maintain clean environment in order to prevent mastitis.
Provide heat abatement to minimize heat stress.
Continue to minimize competition at feedbunk by providing a minimum of 30 inches per cow.
Stocking rate should be near 80% in freestalls.
Corn silage based diets should be supplemented with dry ground corn versus more fermentable starch sources such as barley or wheat.
Provide consistent amount of fresh feed with appropriate feed additives to provide nutrients, push up feed to encourage increased feed intake and make sure the feedbunk is clean.
Properly managing transition cows can greatly improve their performance in subsequent lactations.
If managed properly, it can translate into 1.8 - 2.3 litre more milk at peak production.
Paying close attention to far-off dry cows can also improve performance of the cow in the future.
Close-up dry cows must be encouraged to maintain feed intake to provide sufficient nutrients and prepare them for calving.
Fresh cows must be housed in a dry and clean environment.
Balancing nutrients at all stages and keeping cows in the proper body condition score can not only improve performance but minimize chances of metabolic disorders.