Critical to pay attention to cows' body condition score
We are now in the middle of the spring calving season and while there is a lull in the number of calvings, it is now time to give consideration to the breeding season ahead. Events taking place on your farm now will impact on pregnancy rate to services.
When cows come into heat, an egg is released 24 to 36 hours later. This egg is recruited six to eight weeks earlier. During this window of recruitment the egg is nourished in its shell (follicle). Bearing this in mind, farmers should remember that pre-breeding management of cows is critical to a successful breeding season.
The markers for breeding are put in place six to eight weeks pre-calving. This is where body condition score must be close to 3 on a scale of 1 to 5 at the time of drying off and be maintained here until cows calve.
The dry period is the one of greatest neglect, when cows are dried off, put to one side, and forgotten. During the dry cow period, cows need good quality silage that will maintain body condition. A dry cow mineral specific to your herd should be added to the diet on a daily basis. If silage quality is poor or limiting, move in with a concentrate supplement that will maintain the body condition and health of your herd.
Management during the dry-cow period also covers housing. The use of stand-off pads has resulted in a number of horror stories. There is a greater maintenance cost for the cow when kept on a stand-off pad during cold and wet weather.
These pads need proper maintenance if issues such as E-Coli, mastitis, neospora and lameness are to be avoided. Unfortunately, the downturn in the building industry has meant a shortage of bark.
Many of the current issues with retained after-birth, uterine infections and milk fever are associated with dry-cow management. The primary focus here should be on a diet balanced to the cow's requirements and maintenance of body condition score.
Because of the unusually long, harsh winter, grass availability and quality is very poor. Cows will not meet their requirements post-calving from grass and silage in the current climatic conditions.