Who would have thought we were about to start preparing cows to dry off for the Autumn block of calving? It only seems like a minute ago we were preparing for the Spring calvers to get going.
The last few weeks of lactation are the time to ensure cows are going to go dry in the best possible health, nicely covered at a body condition score of 2.5 to 3. It is very important to add or manage weight while the cow is milking, not when she is dry. This is due to the way she utilizes and partitions the energy she is being fed. Our team are trained in condition scoring so now is the time to evaluate the cows to be dried off and either feed a little more for condition or pull a little back if they are too fat.
All four hooves need to be picked up and given a routine trim. Trimming must be done before all the complexities of calving take place, namely the complete dilation or softening of muscles to allow the calf to be born. Muscle preparation starts weeks before the birth, hence trimming must be done before drying off and never whilst dry. Care in the crush is paramount as we don’t want to spoil all the hard work getting her pregnant then go and ruin it by being heavy handed and overzealous at this late stage.
Drying off protocols need to be conducted as if you were preparing for an operation. Pressure is being applied from processors and buyers to reduce the use of all antibiotics including intra-mammary dry cow tubes. Opting for teat sealants only increases the attention to detail needed when applying. Use rubber gloves to prepare the teat and cleanse it thoroughly. Then surgically wipe them or dip again. Time of administration is also vital. This should be done as soon as her last milking has finished. Too many cows are segregated out and left in a pen until the end of milking and then brought through the parlour again or worse, put in a crush to be tubed.
If a cow has had a cell count below 150 for the last few milk tests, then sealant only will be sufficient. Please consult your vet for additional advice.
So now she is dry, what don’t we do?
Well, we certainly won’t be giving her the top grab off the silage clamp because it’s too hot or gone off . Or turning her into a field with no grass as she is a bit fat so needs to lose some weight.
This is the time for her to rest and repair. I prefer to opt for a one diet system so that if there are any unforeseen circumstances then we are covered. For example, the twins that weren’t expected and came two weeks early or the cow that held to the first service and not to the second. Our Ruminant Feed Specialists have all the tools to ensure that these cows transition in top order. Our blueprint has been developed to fully understand the background minerals on the farm, and tailor- make a diet to work with them and with any mineral antagonists.
If you just want to feed silage and keep things simple then opt for either our MF Eliminator Nuts or Blend which is carefully formulated to supply a balance of protein, starch and sugar to prepare the cows rumen for the transition to milking diet. It also incorporates X-Zelit calcium binder which locks up all the background calcium in the diet and makes the cow mobilise skeletal calcium from her bones helping prevent milk fever. Should you choose a TMR diet then we can supply an X-Zelit farm pack to be mixed in on farm. Our team can recommend the correct dietary balance. If it is your preferred choice to feed a DCAB or Partial DCAB diet, then once again the blueprint comes into its own. Full mineral profiling will be conducted with a bespoke mineral formulated for your own herds challenges.
We apply the same principles to our Harpers Pre-Calver minerals. These can either be supplied to you for mixing on farm or in our Pre-Calver Nuts or Rolls.