News & Advice

What feed situation are you in this summer and what are the consequences of that for cow condition?

Feb 9, 2021 | Dairy, Dairy Farm Reproduction

Katrina Roberts, Herd Health Veterinarian, Anexa Vets

Our feeling is that there is huge variation out there – some farms have had good summer rain some have not, and this may even be on the same road! Therefore, ensuring that you are developing your own plan is crucial.

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 and milking frequency, 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 in early February, 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 before the end of the month 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 in-calf rates. Getting these young animals back to 5.5 is crucial for their lifetime productivity. If you aren’t quite ready for us to set drying off dates based on these individual cow BCS, we can use this data to make a list of cows to be put on OAD, be drafted into the “light mob” or receive increased supplementary feed during lactation.

Lots of our farmers now get us to individually condition score their herds to create this cow specific list. They love the ease of the job (we can do it during milking in most cow-sheds), the speed of turn around of the data (straight into MindaLive) and the simplicity of the report (list of cows to be dried off in week batches or however you want it based on all the criteria above). Mark Sing from Bridgnorth Farms says:

“Getting the herd individually BCS’d in summer is a great way of getting an unbiased BCS, combining this with the pregnancy testing data enables us to structure dry off to set the cows up for next season. It’s a great system to take the guess work out of drying off and it means I can maximise days in milk knowing that I can still achieve target BCS at calving”.

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.

Don’t leave individual BCS until its too late to make changes – book it now!


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