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How to manage dry, transition and fresh phases of a dairy cow

The story of a successful a lactation starts with 90 days. CARE 90 program is customized to take care of your cows during these 90 days i.e., 60 days before calving and 30 days post calving. Performance of an animal in next lactation depends upon these 90 days. In these days, cows are under huge stress and their requirements are also changing frequently. These 90 days are critical because they determine milk output from the lactation, health of the cow and future reproductive performance.

Dry phase (60 days pre calving to 21 days pre calving):

Why is dry period important? Because maintaining body condition score (BCS) in dry phase will give a successful calving and lactation. Low fodder consumption due to stress makes it difficult to maintain the cow’s health, provide nutrients for the developing calf and maintain immunity during pregnancy.

In this phase we must focus on animal’s DMI (Dry Matter Intake). Give fresh forage and dry cattle feed concentrate which is high in protein and digestible fiber to increase body condition score.

Dry animals should be separate from milking animals and provided with best management like soft bedding, cooling fan system, etc.

Transition phase (From 21 days pre calving till calving):

Managing the transition phase is important because cows are stressed due to fast growing fetus and advanced pregnancy. They have decreased feed intake, have low immunity, are vulnerable to mastitis and metritis and have poor hoof strength.

Need for more focus on transition cows in India:

Care for transition cows has gained more relevance in India due to the following reasons:

  • Change in breed /genetics,
  • High milk production in cows,
  • Seasonal breeding
  • High temperatures,
  • Higher bodyweight of cows/young stock,
  • Inadequate care of dry cows.

Signs of inadequate transition management:

Poor transition management will often have the following consequences,

  • High incidence of metabolic disorders,
  • Poor appetites and low dry matter intakes
  • Acidosis,
  • Rapid loss of body condition score in the first month post-calving,
  • Poor conception rate.

The goals of managing the cow during the dry and transition period are:

  • to produce a healthy calf
  • to have minimal health problems
  • to bring cows into high milk production
  • to maintain/minimize loss of body condition score
  • Control/decrease days to first ovulation and maintain/enhance fertility

Farm management of transition cows includes cow comfort, bedding, ventilation, space, cleanliness and health management.

Nutrition management is also very important.

  • Increase crude protein to 15 to 16 percent using undegraded intake protein (UIP) sources.
  • Provide fresh rations 3-4 times a day.
  • Avoid supplemental buffer, salt and calcium. Add anionic salts to prevent low blood calcium,
  • Add yeast culture (10 to 12 grams per day depending on the product selected). It is important that the rumen microorganisms and rumen papillae in these cows be adapted to the feedstuffs being fed to milking cows.
  • Increased grain/concentrate (cattle feed) feeding during the transition period is required to meet the dry cow’s energy needs due to the rapidly growing fetus.

Fresh phase (from calving to 30 days post calving):

Fresh phase is critical because there is a sudden increase in milk output and low feed intake. The cow is in negative energy balance. Body condition score declines and the cow is susceptible to diseases like mastitis and milk fever.

Managing the fresh period: Nutrition and farm management in the fresh period have the same importance as that of the pre-calving transition period.

  • High quality forage and fermentable diets for fresh cows are important. Push the cows on forage intake rather than cattle feed for first 30 days.
  • Provide adequate calcium soon after calving.
  • Careful attention to minimize the extent of negative energy balance.
  • Gradually increase amount of concentrate (cattle feed) in diet with increase in milk yield.
  • Check the health (BCS) of cows daily.
  • Fresh animals should be kept separate from high milk yielders.

To know more about Purina’s cattle feed solutions for dry, transition and fresh cows, click here

Watch this video for more information