News & Advice

Calving with no grass is becoming the norm for autumn calving cows

Mar 2, 2021 | Autumn calvers, Dairy

Katrina Roberts, Herd Health Veterinarian, Anexa Vets

Most of you have feed budgets in place for your calving cows, but what about the springers what do they need to be fed and how can we do it with nil grass?

The basic requirements still apply – 100 to 120ME depending on their size (and BCS of course) and this amount of energy is difficult to achieve with low ME hay, deferred grass or poor-quality grass silage. Therefore, be sure to calculate what energy is going in. The feed utilisation (nil wastage) is very good at this time of year i.e. what you offer them, they do eat.

With the heat, we have had it is crucial the springers have access to shade and adequate fresh water. Heat stress in the springers is a real problem and can lead to reduced calf health, reduced colostrum quality and reduced milk production.

Another potentially limiting factor is protein. Crude protein should be about 12% of the diet for the springers. When they are eating hay, deferred grass and maize silage this isn’t going to be 12%. Make sure you have a couple of kgDM of good quality spring perennial silage available for the springers and/or 1-2kgDM palm kernel.

We don’t often see metabolic (down cow) issues in our autumn calving cows, however with a diet with no grass phosphate levels can potentially be limiting. Adding 1-2kgDM PKE or grass silage (grown on high P soils) will usually do the trick for providing enough phosphate, and if those aren’t available then you can add phosphate into the mineral mix.

Feeding cows (pre-calving and milkers) on a diet that is 100% supplement (crops, forages and concentrates) is quite complicated so please chat to one of our herd health vets if you want some specific advice – you can book an appointment through your usual vet.

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