News & Advice

One of the challenges of plenty of grass and dry off

Apr 12, 2023 | Dairy, Dairy Farm Reproduction, Milk Quality

Katrina Roberts, Herd Health Veterinarian

Autumn is looking pretty nice out there so far but for those who have had their herd body condition scored (BCS) you will know that cow condition isn’t any better than an average autumn.


Supplements such as maize silage, spring grass silage and PKE are much more efficient at putting on cow condition, and in general they have been fed in much lower quantities this year than usual. So, the BCS situation isn’t really that surprising.


What this means is your vets and advisors will be encouraging you to dry off your young, early-calving lighter cows, so that they get back to target 5.5 for next calving. Drying off cows that are still milking well (> 10L/cow/day) can be challenging when they are being fed plenty of autumn grass.


Cows’ grass intakes (protein and energy) need to be reduced to maintenance levels for a few days pre and post dry off, to encourage cows to dry off successfully. Practically this will look different for each farm but may include tools such as dry haylage; hay; straw; increasing maize silage; reducing area offered (e.g., 100m2 per cow to 50m2 per cow); entering longer, more mature pasture. Of course, reducing grass area may increase the risk of udder contamination so this needs to be done with a planned approach (choosing the right paddocks).


During the early dry off period ensure you continue to meet the cows’ mineral needs (magnesium, calcium, and zinc levels). Continue supplementation until the cows are properly dry i.e., 7-10 days after the last milking, as only then do their mineral requirements reduce.


As each farm is different, please ensure you chat to your vet about whether you need to tweak your dry off plan this season due to the conditions we are experiencing this autumn. A bit of planning now will allow you to make the most of this lovely autumn grass we don’t usually get to enjoy – long may it last!

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