With Winter well upon us lets have a look at some issues that are bound to crop up on farm over the next few months.
In a “Normal” year we would be looking at cows having gone through a long lactation and consequently would be slipping into a slightly thin body condition. This year it looks like will be the perfect storm for problem calving due to over conditioned or fat cows (B.C.S 3.5 to 4)
Its commonly thought that on farm calving difficulties with a fat cow are due to a big calf size. Scientific evidence has proven that rather the cow is over conditioned and consequently does not have as much room in her body and birth canal for the calving process. This can lead to difficult calving, ceasarian sections animal health problems and lost calves and cows.
The size of the calf is determined by the genetics of the cow and bull mostly, only a very small part of calf size is feeding.
This year because of the huge amounts of grass available and the majority of cows drying off early, cows are being housed in higher Body conditions than ever before. This long dry period and good fodder could lead to serious problems with fat cows at calving. That is why I worry so much about this “Perfect Storm”
What happens in a lot of problem cases that I have seen is farmers don’t take action early enough. They wait till 3 or 4 weeks before calving to properly asses Body condition and panic when they realise the cow is a little fat. Then they drastically cut her feed intake in an effort to get her to lose body condition score. This is a very risky proposal that causes multiple problems on farm every year and this is why:
If the cow is too fat 3 to 4 weeks before calving it is generally too late to do anything about it. If you starve the cow all you will do is cause her to try to calve down with no energy reserves in her body. She needs a huge amount of energy at calving for successful calving process, colostrum production, fighting off infection and producing a healthy calf. Cutting off her energy supply so late just leaves her open to problems with all the aforementioned issues. (Ask me how I know this and I will tell you that unfortunately I have found out the hard way)
Ironically the best thing to do with a fat cow in the 2 weeks before calving is to feed them a high energy feed such as SmartCalver 18 to give the cow a chance to get through what will be a difficult process due to her body condition. She will not put on any more condition in the month before calving no matter what you offer her as her feed intake ability is cut by her increasing womb size and consequent rumen size reduction.
The best advice to save yourself money, time, and the hardship and stress is to try the following few tips.
Stand back from your cows today and try to look at them impartially. Are they too fat or thin? Allow that they will lose at least 0.25 of a body condition score in the last 2 months before calving no matter what you feed them as their feed intake reduces. Consider asking a qualified experienced neighbour or professional for a second opinion.
Can you group your cows using their due dates and feed them accordingly?
Can you provide 2 kilos per head of a high energy feed with a pre-calver mineral to those cows that are 3 to 4 weeks from calving to ease the calving process?
Do you have access to silage from fields with low potash values for these cows before calving? This will help to reduce incidence of Hypocalcaemia.
Are your calving facilities ready for the calving season?
Hopefully these few little tips can go some way to help you along the path of a successful and stress free calving season. But just remember it is the decisions you make today that will determine how your season goes.
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Paul O’Connell[contact-form-7 404 "Not Found"]