Franklin Vets Blog
It all starts at the very beginning……It’s a very good place to start.
We can all agree that it is important to maximise peak milk production and maintain it for as long as possible, so do we pay enough (or any) attention to the factors that drive a high and sustained peak?
Much of what drives a herd towards a strong peak is established during the three months leading up to calving: the dry-off/transition period. A good dry period and transition can set your season up to be a complete success or a complete flop and it is often the period we spend the least time on. Time is short in NZ’s seasonal system, and ironically one of the most critical periods of the dairying calendar is also a very good time to take a well deserved holiday! With a bit of prior planning and attention, farms should be able to have their cake and eat it too.
A successful dry period/transition should achieve three main things:
- Allow the milk-producing cells of the udder a rest and time to replenish.
- Ensures the herd has sufficient time to gain the required body condition to meet calving targets.
- “Warm’s the cows up” ahead of their big game – i.e. ensures they are match fit ahead of calving.
These three things combined, alongside optimal feeding in early lactation are key to ensuring a high and sustained peak milk production. Not to mention the raft of other animal health and performance benefits that come via a good transition and through having well-conditioned cows at calving.
To help start you off on the right foot this season here are some key dry-period/transition take-homes:
- Dry period should be a minimum of 50 days and ideally not too long as cows lose their “fitness.” However, reaching target BCS is most important so if you can’t get condition on the cows quickly then dry-off light animals early.
- Aim to have as much BCS on cows backs before dry-off, ideally drying off at calving BCS if possible.
- Give cows a break from magnesium for at least 2 months prior to transition diets being fed (these are high in Mag).
- Ensure cows don’t lose any of their body condition over the dry period (perform feed calculations and make sure their requirements are being met).
- Try and mirror your lactation diet with that of your springers – i.e. if you feed starchy feeds (e.g. maize/meal) to your milkers then make sure your springers also receive a similar feed.
- Feed hay or straw to ensure rumen capacity is maintained.
- Sit-down and create a comprehensive Springer cow plan/policy for your farm (these will be unique to every farm).
- Ensure cows go into the dry period with optimal levels of Copper, B12, Selenium and also macrominerals (use liver biopsies to assess this).
- If you are chasing your tail to get condition on your cows use Eprinex pour-on and consider buying in concentrate supplements.
Our team is happy to sit-down and talk through your plans for transition to help ensure this critical period of the year is a success for you.