Calving is a stressful time for cows, and unsurprisingly many health problems occur in the first few weeks post-calving. However, with careful management of the transition period, and targeted use of supplements, farmers can reduce the risk of metabolic disorders. Understanding the importance of hydration in fresh cows is crucial to future milk production.
Veterinary journal InPractice describes the main factors causing the increased risk of metabolic disorders as being an open cervix and teats, reduced immunity, and a negative energy balance caused by reduced feed intake and a greater energy requirement in order to produce milk.
The best practice for fresh cows will depend on the farm system, but it starts with good management of dry cows, starting with drying them off at a Body Condition Score appropriate to the breed. Through the dry period, Holsteins will need 75cm+ feed space each, and 10cm water trough space. There should be constant access to fresh, palatable feed and clean water. When sheds are built they should be designed so that they are sometimes understocked, but never overstocked, and to minimise stress cow movements should be limited. When cows do move groups do so in pairs if possible.
Hydration of fresh cows is key to minimising the risk of metabolic disease. During calving, the cow can lose fluid equal to the weight of the calf, and this loss of water can impact how nutrients are transferred to the cells of the body. The loss of volume also provides space inside the body cavity which increases the risk of a displaced abomasum.
Cow intakes are suppressed at calving, which also reduces hydration as part of the cow’s water intake comes from the feed ration. The reduction in intake also impacts the rumen’s pH and lactic acid levels.
Supplementary yeast, in the form of TechMix’s RY Caps, can help support rumen health and encouraging intakes. The easy to use boluses contain yeast and vitamins and can be given to cows during any events where feed intake is suppressed.
Containing live yeast, calcium, magnesium, potassium, niacin, betaine, vitamin E, and zinc chelate, TechMix’s Fresh Cow YMCP is a highly palatable and non-abrasive supplement which can be fed as a drench or given in a bucket to drink. The product is designed to be given immediately post-calving, or to cows that have been energy deficient, are suffering from a metabolic disorder, or have been off their feed after surgery. It is also available in a paste form which does not require additional water.
Several projects have shown the benefit of providing Fresh Cow YMCP to newly calved cows. When compared to a control group, cows given the product showed a normal decline in blood calcium post-calving, but it never dropped below 7.4 mg/dl. In the control group, blood calcium levels dropped to 5.3 mg/dl.
Fresh Cow YMCP has also been shown to outperform competitor products. 40 cows from a Cheshire herd of 2100 calved over a 5-day period and were given either Fresh Cow YMCP or a rival product. Their performance and health were subsequently tracked using data inputted to Uniform Agriculture. Compared to the 21 cows fed the competitor product, the 19 cows given Fresh Cow YMCP recorded an average of just under 3 litres per day of extra milk up to 148 days in milk, a cumulative total of 342 litres per cow. At a milk price of 27ppl, this is an extra income of £92.34 per cow, just to that stage in lactation. There was no difference in fat and protein levels between the two groups.
Earlier trials in North America have shown that Fresh Cow YMCP reduced the incidence of metabolic disease, retained placentas and subsequent culling in the lactation.
While fresh cow management is a multi-faceted part of farming, and one that will vary according to the farm system, a product such as Fresh Cow YMCP can play an important role in ensuring that cows have their needs met. Transition cow management- monitoring cow health, diet, housing or grazing, and supplementary feeding- should all be discussed with the farm vet and nutritionist to then be applied in a holistic way to provide the best care for the cows, resulting in optimal performance for the business.