Fit for production?

Fit for production?
By Hanneke Officer Veterinarian, Anexa Vets Gordonton

Simply put, the most important periods during the season are mating and calving; in that order. Without a successful mating a cow will not calve the following season and therefore she won’t lactate which is what it’s all about after all.

Conversely, the period between calving and mating is the most stressful period for a cow and responsible for the largest condition loss throughout the season. Very inconvenient when we’re already under time pressure to get a cow in calf again.

So why is this?

When a cows calves, after a nice break of at least 60 days (dry period), she rapidly enters a period of increased energy demands due to:
  • Calving process
  • Milk production
  • Walking long distances
  • Competition with herd mates
And this is all on top of her daily maintenance requirements which ensure she functions the way she should. We are then expecting her to also put some energy aside for mating – this means growing follicles ready for conception with all hormonal changes that accompany this.

This energy needs to come from their daily feed intake. Initially following calving it takes time for a cow to be able to eat enough to fulfil her energy demands. This means she will first use up her body reserves of fat and muscle leading to loss of condition. Typically we see a Body Condition Score (BCS) loss of 1.0 between calving and mating. Now here’s the punchline: if a cow didn’t make it to target BCS of 5.0 at calving, she will be under a BCS 4.0 at mating if she loses the average 1 BCS.

There’s a reason us vets keep going on about these target BCS scores at calving!
A cow with BCS under 4.0 will likely have reduced cycling activity and will take longer to conceive if she does at all.

Okay that’s all fair and well, however you can’t change the BCS at calving at this point in time. So what are your options?
  • BCS the herd or get your vet to identify any animals not at target or that are struggling
  • Discuss options to curb weight loss for those cows e.g. OAD, preferential feeding, adding high ME supplement
  • Check feed management: is what you’re giving in line with the herd requirements and is intake as expected? If feeding enough, is the quality sufficient to provide the energy needed?
  • Remember ketosis: a state of negative energy balance leading to a range of symptoms including reduction in milk production, gradual wasting or even nervous signs. A simple blood test of 10 cows in the herd will give an indication of feed efficacy.
For help with any of this or more information or to book your whole herd individual body condition score contact your Anexa vet.

If you received drought relief funding, then managing your cow condition can be part of that package

Date Added: Wednesday, 5th August 2020