News & Advice

Lots of grass doesn’t mean your cows are necessarily fatter this year

Feb 5, 2019 | Dairy, Dairy Animal Health & Welfare

Katrina Roberts, Anexa Vets, Herd Health Veterinarian

Just because we’ve mostly had a really good summer (so far) for grass growth, doesn’t mean that your herd is in any better BCS that it is normally at this time of year. I know that may sound contradictory to popular belief, but think about the strategies that you would often already have in place at this time of year to mitigate BCS loss – whole herd on OAD or 16h milking, young/light cows already on OAD or you may have started feeding out supplements such as maize and PKE (which are great for BCS gain). Assuming that all is okay and that all cows in your herd this season are in target condition for their stage of lactation is a huge risk to next season’s reproductive performance.

Although we spend a lot time as vets and consultants talking about herd-level strategies and interventions,  now is the time to think about the individual cows in your herd  – we cannot afford to treat all cows as equals.  Each cow will be in a different situation right now. This is related to her; 

  • Expected calving date (hopefully confirmed by pregnancy test by now), 
  • Age (first calvers have to be back to BCS 5.5 for their second calving, which means they have to be in better BCS now, and they take longer to gain BCS at this time of the year as they are still growing), 
  • Current BCS, 
  • Milk production (TAD, OAD, dried off already), and 
  • Type and quantity of supplements (and total feed) available for her (specifically related to how the feed partitions to BCS gain). 

Therefore,  the best investment you can make now is to individually condition score your herd and use that information to make individual decisions for your cows.
For example a heifer in BCS 3.5 this week (not uncommon), that is due to calve on the 10th July and is expected to gain BCS when dry on a predominantly grass diet needs to be dried off NOW in order to hit her target of BCS 5.5 for next calving. We know from working with herds that the second calvers often have the poorest 6-week incalf rates. Getting these young animals back to 5.5 is crucial for their lifetime productivity.

We can help you achieve an improvement in BCS for your herd by: 

  • Individually scoring your herd  (we have BCS accredited vets and we can do it during milking), 
  • Helping you  set  these  cow-level BCS targets  for during lactation and during dry off, 
  • Helping  provide practical solutions  to achieve these targets, and 
  • We have vets that can help you with  feed budgets, Return on investment and nutritional advice around achieving these BCS targets

Contact your local Anexa Vet or clinic for more information. 

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