Some of the most significant opportunities to increase production efficiency and reproductive health come from supporting dairy cows as they transition from late pregnancy to early lactation. While many traditional systems have a hands-off approach to the transition period, it is now considered one of the most critical times of the year, with as much as 80 percent of all health issues related to this period.
Thankfully, there are now ways to reduce the incidence of milk fever significantly. NutriMin® Springer Cow Balancer is a convenient solution that addresses many of the causes of milk fever in New Zealand dairy cows.
Feeding NutriMin® Springer Cow Balancer in the two-three weeks before calving helps set the cow up to meet the significant demand for calcium (Ca) at calving. It also helps to boost immunity through the inclusion of vitamins, essential trace minerals and the world’s first commercially available primary antioxidant, MeloFeed®, which is only available from Nutritech.
If we take the average dairy farm in New Zealand of 440 cows, 385 kilograms of milksolids per cow (kgMS/cow) with a 268 days lactation length and apply similar numbers published by DairyNZ21 for clinical and sub-clinical cases of milk fever into the Nutritech Milk Fever Calculator, the cost of milk fever to the farmer is $7,500 per 100 cows (similar to the number of $8,000 per 100 cows published by DairyNZ2). Minimising these losses by feeding NutriMin® Springer Cow Balancer results in return on investment to the farmer of approximately 4:13.3
A proactive approach is crucial in minimising issues associated with metabolic diseases, particularly their influences on fertility. Start early to identify at-risk cows with a history of milk fever or in less-than-ideal conditions before drying off. It would be preferable to feed them over and above their production requirement now to ensure they are in suitable condition at drying off.
In addition to NutriMin® Springer Cow Balancer, you can drench at-risk cows with JumpStart® before and just after calving as this contains high levels of (>400 millilitres) of mono propylene glycol (MPG), and two forms of highly available Ca.
Taking feed tests of all the ingredients in the transition diet and running them through DietCheck® also helps assess the risk and helps to decide on the best feed ingredients for the transition period. For instance, if the pasture is high in DCAD, this will follow through to any silage made from it.
Simple management changes, such as transitioning cows onto new feeds, will allow both rumen papillae and microbes to adapt to the new diet before a significant stress period. For instance, stepping cows off fodder beet can reduce the“shock”of a dietary change.
Also, live yeasts, such as Levucell®SC, have shown promising results for reducing inflammation in the rumen during this period4. Levucell®SC live yeast, and other unique ingredients such as Rumensin® and CholiPearl®, are shown to help reduce the incidence of fatty liver post calving and can all be added to the NutriMin® Springer Cow Balancer range.
Finally, including a high-quality protected fat such as GoldenFlake® in the diet straight after calving has demonstrated positive returns on investment through improvements in milk yield, milk composition and fertility. Energy-dense feeds, such as protected fats, can assist in increasing energy intakes during periods of high energy demand when intakes are limited and minimise body condition score (BCS) loss.
If you would like help to plan your transition program, don’t delay. Now’s the time to call your local Nutritech Area Manager to discuss how they can help you develop a successful transition programme, using DietCheck® rationing programming and technical support from qualified nutritionists.
Robin Mattisson milks 500 cows in North Otago
“We first started using NutriMin® Springer Cow Balancer two years ago.
Being our first season on the farm, everything was new to us: the cows, the farm, the staff, the machinery, and the landscape. We gave it our best shot to make it work the first time around. With the help of the local Nutritech Area Manager Catherine Sharpin, our pastures were sampled and run through their diet rationing programme to assess them for milk fever risk or DCAD.
From there, Catherine helped us develop a simple transition programme considering all our on-farm risk factors. That plan and Nutritech’s NutriMin® Springer Cow Balancer tweaked our pasture results. We hit a cold and wet spring and have never looked back.
With the first season delivering great results, Catherine and I met again to assess the performance against this season’s pasture samples to make another batch of NutriMin® Springer Cow Balancer.
This season we added Rumensin® to help prevent Ketosis post-calving. With zero metabolic down cows or issues through calving, as well as our body condition score (BCS) sitting above where we wanted to come into mating, we have stayed on twice a day milking, and the girls are holding on strong! I am stoked with the results again!
Being able to tailor the product to suit your system, your farm, and your cows make NutriMin® Springer Cow Balancer products far more than an off-the-shelf product. They’re a service backed with a friendly and knowledgeable team who are keen to help!”
James and Carolyn Houghton milk 400 cows in Pukeatua
“We run a 100 percent Autumn calving property with 400 breed cows weighing 510 kilograms (kg) live weight.
Our target this season is 700 milksolids per cow at four cows per hectare (ha). This production will come from 7,000kg of dry matter (DM), of which 4,000 will be grass eaten. The rest is maize/grass silage grown on farm and imported feeds.
Our soil tests show potassium (K) is low, but in pasture tests, the K is off the page.
Situated 160 metres (m) above sea level, our farm has a rolling contour. Each paddock receives one dose of effluent each a year.
NutriMin®Springer Cow Balancer is important for the transitioning of our cows, setting them up to produce at efficient and optimal levels. It is easy to incorporate in the dry cow mix, with very few metabolic issues occurring.
In the past, it was not uncommon for our business to use a box of metabolics a week, and affected cows were slow to recover – some never fully recovered. Prevention is better than cure.
Autumn is a busy time on farm with extra challenges such as maize harvesting and regrassing during the calving period. We don’t have time to deal with issues if we get the basics wrong.”
- New Zealand Dairy Statistics 2019-20, DairyNZ and LIC
- DairyNZ Technical Series June 2012
- Values calculated using the Nutritech Milk Fever Calculator assuming a $7.50/kgMS payout, a replacement cow value of $2,000, a production level of 385kgMS/cow, a 268-day lactation and DairyNZ data on milk production losses associated with death (0.2 percent), clinical (three percent) and sub-clinical milk fever (30 percent) of the herd
- Changes in gene expression in the rumen and colon epithelia during the dry period through lactation of dairy cows, and effects of live yeast supplementation. Bach et al. Journal of Dairy Science 2018; 101:2631–2640