Pre-calving supplement offers nutrition boost as forage quality declines

Beef and dairy farmers preparing for the autumn calving season will likely need to support their cows with additional supplementation to make up for a decline in forage quality, according to Dr Alison Bond, nutritionist for Rumenco.

“We’re reaching the time of year when there is a natural decline in forage availability and quality. However, this year has been further compounded by growing conditions,” she explained.

Industry reports show poor growing conditions in the spring and early summer resulted in first cuts of silage having sugar values nearly 72% lower and lignin values 11% higher compared to 2021. High levels of lignin cause significant decreases in the nutritional value of forage.

While damp weather conditions have boosted mid to late summer grass growth well above the four-year average, quality remains low and is starting to have an immediate season taper in availability.

“The challenge for autumn calvers is to meet pre-calving nutritional requirements when they are at the highest, while forage stocks and quality take a nose dive,” Dr Bond continued.

If silages are less digestible then we could see lower dry matter intakes in the run-up to calving as the silage won’t pass through the rumen as quickly. This is a problem as we want to maximise dry matter intakes in the final weeks of pregnancy to minimise the risk of metabolic problems.”

Maintaining cows in a positive energy balance is especially challenging in the final weeks of pregnancy, when cows are under considerable metabolic stress as the udder prepares for lactation, colostrum production begins and rapid foetal development is taking place.

To stretch forage stocks while meeting nutritional requirements, Dr Bond recommended supplementing feeds with a product like CalverMaxx in the final six weeks of pregnancy.

Specially formulated to support the health and performance of pre-calving cows and heifers, CalverMaxx is a palatable, high-sugar product that provides a readily available source of energy to support calf growth, colostrum production and future cow fertility.

The high sugar content provides rumen support by feeding rumen microbes to boost rumen function, which in return will optimise available nutrients in every mouthful of forage consumed.

“For cattle on a forage-based diet, CalverMaxx will deliver essential vitamins and minerals while also supporting rumen function without leading to excessive weight gain,” Dr Bond added. “Daily intakes are 200-300g, which is not enough for cows to become over-conditioned in late pregnancy.”

Through receiving CalverMaxx, cows benefit from high levels of iodine and copper, including a protected source of copper, to support calf development and return to oestrus. The product also has optimal levels of selenium and vitamin E, including a protected source of selenium, to support colostrum quality, calf vigour, and immunity.

“Not only are there economic benefits from the ability to stretch forage stocks in a year like this, but there are also short and long-term benefits in managing metabolic disease risk and optimising colostrum production,” Dr Bond concluded.

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