Feeding the transition cow to achieve success

Feeding a highly metabolisable protein source in combination with the negative DCAD diet during the 21 days pre-partum leads to further increase in fresh milk yields over anionic salts alone.

Success in dairy farming includes managing all phases of production.

Research and practice have shown that for maximum return, lactation management starts during a cow’s dry period, continues into transition with astute nutritional support that is maintained into lactation.

The ‘transition period’, 60 days pre- and post-calving — with the most critical the 21 days prior to calving — is a time where a dairy farmer can impact milk yields and reduce the incidence of metabolic disorders.

Correct feeding and management during this period to ensure a higher DMI (dry matter intake) during transition supports milk yield and body weight.

Furthermore, minimising the duration the cows are in negative energy balance can also have a positive impact on subsequent reproduction success.

A negative dietary cation-anion difference (DCAD) diet is a feeding strategy commonly employed 21 days prior to calving.

This involves feeding a diet that is low in cations (sodium and potassium) and high in anions (chlorine and sulphur). The result is a net negative DCAD, which can have several benefits for transition dairy cows.

One benefit of feeding a negative DCAD diet to transition cows is that it can help to reduce the risk of post-calving milk fever.

Feeding a negative DCAD diet can help to maintain normal blood calcium levels and prevent milk fever by making bone calcium a more available supply to be drawn on when the cow needs it most.

In addition to reduced milk fever, meta-analysis has shown a reduction in other metabolic disorders such as retained placentas and reduced uterine infections.

A further benefit of feeding a negative DCAD diet during transition is an increase in fresh milk yield when compared to a positive DCAD diet.

During the transition period, the protein requirements of dairy cows increase significantly due to the high demand for milk production and the need to rebuild body tissues after giving birth.

As a lower DCAD diet can reduce DMI, supplying a highly-metabolisable protein source in the diet prior to calving can help mitigate some of the expected loss in milk yield.

In one research trial with more than 13,000 observations, cows fed Biochlor for at least 21 days pre-partum experienced significant health benefits compared to cows fed Biochlor for seven days or less.

In fact, research has shown that using a highly metabolisable protein source (Biochlor) in combination with the negative DCAD diet fed 21 days pre-partum led to an additional 2.6kg/day of ECM (energy-corrected milk) production compared to anionic salts treatment fed for the same duration and at the same negative DCAD (-10 DCAD mEq/100g DM).

Both treatments recorded higher production over the control treatment (positive DCAD).

Contributed by AusPac Ingredients, official distributor of Biochlor in Australia.