The transition period impacts cow health, fertility and production, therefore, effective and efficient management during this time is key. To do so, Wynnstay dairy specialist David Jones, recommends focussing on four F’s: feet, forage, feed and facilities.
If you didn’t look at reseeding last spring, this autumn could be an ideal time to invest in your forage quantity and quality.
Recent silage analysis from across the country has show variation in nutrient analysis, this may pose feeding challenges to farmers this Autumn and consideration needs to be given to balancing the ration to optimise rumen health and maintain performance
There is no such thing as a silver bullet balancing for Amino Acids in calf milk replacer.
Amino acids are certainly the buzz word in ruminant nutrition, and rightly so. Nevertheless, will AA supplementation change the world of calf milk replacers too?
There are two overarching themes in research and ongoing farm trials:
- We are scratching the surface.
- A silver bullet does not exist.
No foot, no horse’ is a well-known saying in the equine world, and nutrition is a key part of maintaining optimum hoof health. When considering hoof nutrition, the emphasis tends to be on biotin, methionine and zinc, and all of these have their roles to play within the complex hoof, but have we overlooked one of the main players? What role does sulphur play in your horse’s hoof health?
Minerals are necessary to sustain life but you might be surprised by how many cow and calf operations are mineral deficient, especially when it comes to copper and Selenium. Here is our guide to minerals and the roles they play in keeping your livestock healthy.
Whether lambs will be retained for breeding or finishing, it is imperative that they have the correct balance of trace elements in order to thrive. The 4 key trace elements needed for optimal performance are Selenium, Cobalt, Iodine and Zinc. All these trace elements are contained within the ‘Wynnstay Lamb Bolus’, or alternatively if lambs only require Cobalt, then the ‘Wynnstay Cobalt B12’ bolus is a suitable alternative.
The British dairy industry prides itself on being a pioneer in dairy cattle welfare; it is a top priority for the sector.
However, the fate of dairy bull calves is not a secret; it is a key focus area for the industry. While the rearing of bull calves for the beef market is high, and several industry initiatives continue to champion improvements in calf health, welfare and survival, there is still room for improvement. The industry has committed to making further progress in this area with the development of the GB Calf Strategy. The core objective of the strategy is to find practical solutions to reduce the number of calves that are routinely euthanised on farms. You can read more about the GB Calf Strategy on the AHDB website.
Energy demand for any dairy animal depends on their specific requirement for; maintenance, reproduction, milk production and body reserves. Whilst our mature cows are pregnant their energy demand is focussed on maintenance and foetal growth.
As a heifer progresses through the pregnancy we must consider she is still undergoing her own continued development including her own maintenance, growth, mammary tissue growth/development, and then in the last trimester of pregnancy, the foetus goes through a huge growth phase and, therefore, energy demand increases significantly and quickly (from day 191). Some farms look to balance the diet for a heifer at 141 days (to take an average of her requirement throughout) but this is not sufficient for the third trimester as the demand for energy and protein is far greater.
The expected calf birth weight and day of gestation can be used to calculate a heifer’s requirement for metabolisable energy and protein. The risk of undersupplying energy is that the dam will prioritise the energy she has got available to the development of her calf resulting in her growth slowing or stopping altogether. This may result in difficult calving as she has not grown to the expected size.
It is important to know intakes at stages through pregnancy; pre-calving we can assume consumption to be 1.75% of body weight but this depends on the palatability of the ration put in front of them. Because heifers begin to eat lesser quantities they need the diet to be more energy-dense.
Heifers should be entering the milking parlour at 82% - 90% mature bodyweight post-calving to optimise first lactation yield (Van Amburgh et al., 1998). We can work on a relatively accurate estimation that heifers will produce the same percentage of milk of a mature cow as to what she is as a percentage of her mature weight i.e if she only enters the milking herd at 70% of mature weight, we can only expect 70% of mature cow’s milk yield from her as she is still needing a proportion of energy intake for own growth.
As with all animals, clean, fresh and plentiful water access should be available at all times and this will encourage dry matter intakes.
Feeding Seperate Diets
On some farm set-ups, it can be difficult to run two separate groups and feed two separate diets. Often it is seen as a balancing act and diets are formulated to be in the middle of mature cow and heifer requirements. The problem with this is that the diet can be of higher energy than what dry cows need and lower energy than what heifers require and, due to physical capacity, the dry cows are able to consume more. So, heifers are fed restricted protein and energy.
If we don’t account for this higher energy demand for the heifers and their need for a higher energy-dense diet, then we risk them mobilising fat from their own reserves and have high levels of NEFA’s prior to calving. Reduced dry matter intake pre-calving can lead to the same post-calving and predispose the animal to ketosis and fatty liver syndrome.
Feeding highly digestible fibre forages to help meet demand.
It is important to consider heifers are producing colostrum in the last six weeks of pregnancy and, if they are deficient in energy and protein, we cannot expect them to produce high-quality colostrum.
The management of calves is one of the industry’s main sources of criticism; both the treatment of dairy bull calves and the separation of cows and calves have been attacked by dairy sceptics. My 2021 Nuffield project “Can the UK improve the ethics of its dairy calf management whilst retaining profitability?” will try to find workable solutions to these issues