By Gene Boomer, Manager, Field Technical Services, Arm & Hammer
The transition period is a time of challenges and great opportunities. When managed correctly, it can positively influence milk production, health, reproductive success and, ultimately, profitability. To help your cows navigate the transition period and reap the benefits postpartum, it’s critical to focus on the prepartum cow, especially during the three weeks prior to calving.
Minimize Stress Prepartum
One of the largest goals during the transition period should be to reduce social, environmental and metabolic stressors by minimizing change—keep things simple.
• Avoid unnecessary pen changes, which can result in a drop in dry matter intake (DMI).
• When needed, move cows once per week and in groups of 10 or more, keeping heifers and multilactation cows separate.
• Keep stocking density at a maximum of 100%, with a goal of 85% based on feed bunk space.
Maintain DMI Prepartum
Providing cows with a ration that maintains necessary energy and protein levels prepares them for calving and improves their postpartum health, setting the stage for optimal performance during lactation.
• DMI should be >28 lbs./day for multilactation cows and >24 lbs./day for first lactation animals.
• Formulate a ration with approximately 17 – 19 Mcals of metabolizable energy and 1100 – 1200 grams of metabolizable protein per day.
• Select feeds low in potassium to help minimize anionic supplements. When anions are necessary, feed a palatable source to balance rations for a Dietary Cation-Anion Difference (DCAD) of -8 to -12 meq/100g dry matter to reduce incidence of metabolic disorders postpartum.
Maximize Cow Comfort
A transition program should maximize cow comfort and minimize additional metabolic needs and risk of disease.
• Throughout the transition period provide your cows with clean, dry and comfortable bedding and corrals.
• Minimize stress by acclimating animals to lockups or stations prior to the close-up pen and keeping lock-up time to no more than 30 – 45 minutes per day.
Monitor Health and Performance
With all of the fluctuations of the transition period, it is important to monitor health and performance to ensure your cows are performing to their fullest potential.
• Work with your herd veterinarian to implement a 10-day fresh cow monitoring and treatment program.
• Utilize production data and record fresh cow events such as displaced abomasums, retained placentas and metritis to track health and performance.
• Work with your nutritionist to formulate rations that deliver proper nutrient levels, and your dairy team to implement astute management practices.
Navigating this crucial time can effectively minimize disease, allow your cows to perform to their full potential and reach peak production and profitability.