Losing even 10% of milk output during early lactation, due to poor post-calving nutrition and management, can cut income for a 9,000-litre-average herd by £126 per cow.
So says KW nutritionist Matt Witt, adding that that amounts to more than £25,000 a year across 200 cows. “And that’s also without even considering the potential losses associated with reduced fertility and increased health problems.”
“Half of a cow’s annual yield is produced during the first 100 days in milk, and cow health and performance during that time isn’t just affected by nutrition and management pre-calving. The first eight weeks post-calving are also critical.”
Fresh feed and water
Minimising stress, maximising cow comfort and optimising nutrition should be the top priorities during this time, according to Dr Witt.
“Ensure that fresh feed and water are always readily accessible, housing is clean and there’s space for every cow to lie down – ideally with fresh cows and heifers in separate groups. Energy requirements double from pre- to post-calving, so dry matter intake, rumen function and energy supply are also critical,” he says.
“Use feeds, like sodawheat, to provide rumen-friendly starch. And include British wheat distillers’ feed, the wheat-gluten moist feed Traffordgold and high sugar liquid feeds, like Molale, to help balance energy supply and boost ration palatability.
“Also factor in a minimum of 5% refusals – don’t ever make fresh cows ‘clear up’ if you’re serious about maximising intakes.”