Winter is well and truly here – the ground is soft and grazing conditions are tough.
Most of the cattle to be housed for the winter are now indoors. Many people have large amounts of grass left in their lawns, but what is it really worth in today’s weather?
Be patient, if conditions improve, you may either get some stock in the coming weeks, or not until 2023 – either way, you’ll be running it sooner or later to set up pasture for next year.
The animal should be the center of attention; maintain performance, be it productivity, growth or condition.
In the fall of 2023, the breeding season for dairy and dairy herds has started or will start soon.
Cows, whether they are lactating or raising calves, need positive energy to improve conception rates.
Cows with negative energy show weaker signs of heat, have shorter heats and do not return to calf as easily.
Before developing a feeding plan for any barn, it is very important to know the quality of your main feed.
If you plan to feed any concentrates for your calf rearing fall suckers, you need to have a really great silage. It is almost always necessary to add silage to return cows to calves and to provide calves with sufficient quality milk.
If a lactating cow loses her extreme condition after giving birth, she has negative energy and fertility is impaired. In addition to providing energy to the calving cow, it will also provide a source of minerals needed to improve reproductive function.
If you are feeding cows only straight silage, consider mineral bolus and/or mineral top dressing. The mineral status of silages is variable this year, so supplements are important to increase animal productivity.
It is very important to adapt the feed supply to the genetic potential of the cow and its parity. If possible, first and second calves that are still maturing will benefit from additional supplements.
Concentrates should be suitable to balance the forage on offer, remember that many silages are again low in protein this season.
Protein isn’t cheap, but it’s a critical driver of feed intake, and cows eating more have more energy for milking, solid yield, body condition, and ultimately productivity.
The first thing a cow won’t do is go into calf if she doesn’t get enough energy from calving to service.
When dosing young animals, it is important to consider dairy farmers and lactating cows in your dosing plan.
In lactating herds, as part of the BEEP scheme, many herds will have opted for manure sampling, so there will be information on depletion for their cows.
Dairy herds should also consider manure sampling as a management tool. Whatever may be the case with the attack, it is quite certain that a considerable number of cows will be exposed to worms after the year we have had.
Wet conditions were plentiful this year after droughts in both spring and fall, and these are ideal conditions for worms.
Dose animals as soon as appropriate and be sure to use the most effective products for the target parasites.
If your cows are losing condition due to a significant parasite load, there is no point in getting your feeding strategy right.
Parasites can waste energy and harm cow and heifer productivity.
Good heat detection is an essential element of good performance in any herd. Keep a record of all the heats you see, whether you use an AI or a stock bull. This will allow you to identify non-cycling cows.
Identifying non-bull cows will allow you to do something about it. Heat detection aids such as activity collars or tags, tail paint and scratch pads are very useful for this.
These cows can be scanned to identify any problems such as uterine infections or injuries from previous calving.
If a significant number of cows are not cycling, don’t overlook the possibility that their nutrition is down to zero.
- Brian Reidy is an independent ruminant nutritionist at Premier Farm Nutrition.