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Saturday 17 November 2018

How to get up to 25pc more from your cow in the next lactation

Catherine Hurley

Catherine Hurley

Allocating a dry period of over four weeks in between lactations for cows increases subsequent lactation yield by up to 25pc, according to Teagasc Dairy Advisor Mark O’Sullivan.

The importance of the dry off period can’t be stressed enough, it gives both the cow and farmer time to prepare for the next lactation during a well-deserved break said the Cork-based advisor at a recent Cell Check event.

“The cows have gone through a marathon the past year with everything that came with the weather. They need the rest period to recover and to be ready to produce again for the next lactation,” Mark explained at the event held in Clonakilty Agricultural College.

The dry period allows the cow to:

1.      Increase body condition score for calving;

2.      Regenerate mammary tissue; and,

3.      To optimise the benefits of hormonal changes that occur around the time of calving.

A dry period of over 60 days is recommended by Teagasc for spring-calving cows. A longer dry period is normally required by first-time calvers and cows in poor condition (body condition score, BCS of <2.75) at the dry-off to ensure that they calve down at the advised BCS of 3.25.

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Keeping or getting cows to the right BCS should be a priority for farmers during the dry-cow period, according to Mark. He said that the optimal BCS is ideally 3.25 or between 3.0-3.5, outside of this parameter cows will be running into problems after calving.

“Cows need to be regularly conditioned scored throughout the year and should be scoring about 3.0 at drying off and calving down at 3.25.

“Farmers know themselves, the fattest cows and the thinnest cows are the ones generally repeating and last to come back in calf. If she’s too thin at calving down, she’ll be low yielding and will be slow to come back cycling.

“If she’s too fat there’ll be other problems like milk fever and ketosis and you just don’t want that to happen. 

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