Autumn Calving with LIFELINE Pre-Calver
The Autumn calving season will soon be upon us and now is the time to be thinking about dry period nutrition to allow for a smooth transition from calving into early lactation for both the cow and calf. By supplying the correct nutrition pre-calving, the herd will be in good stead for optimal calving success this season.
Cows should be dried off at least 42 days prior to calving to achieve optimal milk production, the dry period is crucial to prepare the udder and to allow mammary cell development and repair, ready for the next lactation. Furthermore, correct management during the dry period can reduce the number of metabolic and reproductive disorders after calving. However, the dry period is not the time to be reinstating body condition and topping up nutrient reserves as this is more efficiently completed during late lactation. Cows should be dried off at body condition score (BCS) 3-3.25 and this should be maintained throughout the dry period right through to calving.
As well as ensuring cows are in the correct BCS during the dry period it is important that cows have optimal vitamin and mineral supply. There are 15 minerals essential for life in ruminant species with a few being required in increased amounts leading up to calving.
A key mineral to be aware of is magnesium, magnesium plays an important role in uterine tone and muscle contractions meaning that adequate magnesium supply is essential for a smooth and timely calving. Despite this, forage- based diets are at risk of supplying low levels of magnesium this season due to high levels of potassium in soils which could potentially cause magnesium ‘lock up’.
Another important mineral to consider pre-calving is the level of calcium supplied from the whole diet, unless feeding a calcium binder or DCAB diet, keeping calcium levels low during the dry period is a common way to reduce the incidence of milk fever at calving. Moreover, during the dry period and early lactation, cows often experience a ‘dip’ in immunity with immune functions often reducing by 25-40%. Consequentially, cows in early lactation are more prone to infections from pathogenic organisms. When supplying mineral supplements that are low in calcium and high in trace elements during the dry period, the cow can be supported through one of the most challenging periods in the production cycle.
In the same way that minerals are required for the cow, minerals are also important for the developing foetus which increases in weight by 75-80% during the last three months of pregnancy. Unlike antibodies, trace elements and vitamins pass through the placenta from the cow to the calf, this can often explain why vitamin E and selenium deficient cows produce calves which are lethargic and weak at birth. By providing a full complement of minerals during the dry period, calves should be born with adequate mineral levels.
With a focus on reducing mortality and antibiotic usage in agriculture, focus has turned to an improvement in colostrum management to ensure that calves get off to a good start. Colostrum production begins approximately 5 to 6 weeks before calving and peaks at around 2 weeks pre-calving with nutrition and BCS during this period probably having the largest influence on colostrum quality and quantity. A good supply of minerals can help improve colostrum quality compared to mineral-deficient animals. Other nutritional supplements such as mannan-oligosaccharides (MOS) and beta glucans from yeast can help support the cow’s immune function to maximise nutrition partitioning into colostrum production leading to improved colostrum quality available to the calf.
Available in the form of a bucket, mineral crumb or high specification dairy mineral, the LIFELINE Pre-Calver range will ensure a smooth transition during the dry period this autumn – specifically formulated to include an optimal supply of essential minerals and vitamins, plus a blend of nutritional boosters to support the cows immune function and colostrum quality, it is targeted for feeding during the final 6 weeks of pregnancy to aid calving ease and support the birth of calves with high vigour and vitality.
As well as the key benefits, the free-flowing mineral crumb format is ideal for housed dry cows, as it is suitable for top-dressing onto forages or for addition to the TMR, whilst also having the extra benefit of allowing producers to regulate intakes to ensure every cow receives her share.
Likewise, the LIFELINE Pre-Calver bucket has been proven to increase the IgG content (quality) in colostrum by 9.5% when compared to a standard magnesium bucket, costing just £7.11 per cow based on recommended intakes over the 6 week dry period. Given the unique benefits of the product and the resulting potential of increased calf output and cow health, the investment this autumn can be justified.
Ensuring cows and heifers are fed according to their needs will directly influence this year’s autumn calving success, and by adding LIFELINE Pre-Calver into the diet, either as a bucket, mineral crumb or dairy mineral, from 6 weeks pre-calving, will help support your herd through this crucial part of the production cycle. After all, you only get one chance to get it right.