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Lifetime Dairy - Maximise DMI for Maximum Performance

 Maximise transition cow dry matter intakes

Maximise DMI for Optimum Performance

How confident are you that you are doing all  you can to maximise dry matter intakes in your transition cows?

According to Lifetime Specialist and Head of Nutrition and Technical Services for Mole Valley Farmers, Tom Hough, sub-optimal dry matter intakes (DMI) during this stage are one of a number of farm bottlenecks, which could be holding back overall herd performance. In his experience, around three-quarters of farms could make some improvements in how they manage their cows during this vital stage - with intakes being top of the list.

With this in mind, dry period management is one of the main stages included in Mole Valley Farmers’ new consultation-style service - Lifetime Dairy. By asking specific questions about dry period management as part of an on farm appraisal, the team of Lifetime Specialists can help identify pinch points and offer advice on how to address them.

Tom adds: “There will always be something that can be done to improve dry period management on most farms. Even the guys doing a good job will have areas that could be improved and maximising dry matter intakes is key to it all. There can often be small tweaks that can be made that can give a good return.

A cow naturally reduces its DMI around calving due in part to the size of the foetus and hormonal changes. However the key is to limit the extent of this decline by putting appropriate management steps in place. Failure to do so will potentially lead to metabolic disease problems, resulting in long-term issues with fertility and reduced performance throughout lactation.

Research shows that cows that went on to suffer from metabolic disease ate even less before calving, compared to cows that were healthy post calving. The question is whether intakes declined because they were getting sick or the fact they ate less caused them to get sick. Either way, Tom says this highlights the need to track DMI and listen to what cows are telling us.

He explains: “We need the rumen primed and ready to eat a big ration when she calves, but we can do so many things to get it wrong. We’re trying to minimise the natural drop in dry matter intakes around calving. If we do a bad job and limit space or make the environment poor for her, her mind’s not on feeding and you’ve messed up her dry matter intakes.”

Exact target DMIs will be farm specific, however an 8,000 litre herd will ideally be achieving over 10.5kg DMI in the dry period and ideally 11.5-13kg DMI. In some cases, Tom has visited farms where DMIs are in single figures at this stage. This means the rumen is not primed and ready to eat post-calving leading to “an uphill struggle.”

As a starting point, Tom advises monitoring DMIs on farm. Carrying out a rumen fill assessment is a good starting point and is something carried out as part of a Lifetime Dairy appraisal. Ideally dry cows should have a rumen score of four or above (ie, a convex shape). On farms with larger groups of dry cows, weighing back refusals at the end of the day to work our daily DMI can be a useful tool - ideally this should be carried out once a month to monitor management.

To maximise DMI, Tom Hough, Head of Nutrition and Technical Services recommends the following:

  • Ensure sufficient feed space - target 90cm/cow.
  • Stocking rates - high stocking rates in the transition yards are a common bottleneck. Consider if you can group cows differently or make use of additional  buildings.
  • Ration presentation - ensure dry cows are presented with a fresh, palatable ration. If the group is too small to mix a TMR once a day, consider other feeding options such as dry cow rolls or a blend.
  • Manage body condition - over conditioned cows will have reduced DMI post calving. Body condition score late lactation cows to give time to adjust condition before drying  off.





Source Details

 Newsletter 648

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