The importance of correct dry cow mineral

One of the single biggest challenges on a dairy farm is to have a calving season free from metabolic issues such as milk fever, ketosis, displaced abomasum, retained placenta and fatty liver syndrome.

Such metabolic issues come as a large cost on farm when present in both clinical and sub-clinical forms. Prevention of these issues occurring next spring starts during the dry cow period.

A single case of milk fever is estimated to inflict costs, coupled with consequential production losses of circa €300; with sub-clinical cases being estimated to cost >€100.

Research demonstrates that for every clinical case that manifests itself on farm, a further six sub-clinical cases go undetected. Therefore, the investment in a good dry cow management programme on a dairy farm is vital.

Body condition management is also an important road block in correct dry cow management. It is best practise to dry off cows at, or very close to, the best body condition score for calving (3.25); and maintaining this condition score throughout the dry period.

Avoiding metabolic problems and improving general health and disease resistance of both the cow and new-born calf is best achieved through following a quality dry cow mineral programme.

Mineral nutrition is best viewed as macro and micro mineral issues

Macro minerals include calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, sodium and potassium, etc.

These minerals and their interactions will drive most metabolic issues, whereas minerals such as selenium, copper, zinc, cobalt, iodine, manganese are primarily responsible for disease resistance, immunity and reproductive performance.

The challenge

The biggest single challenge is the avoidance of milk fever. Milk fever (hypocalcaemia) most commonly occurs in freshly calved cows. The sudden increase in demand for calcium at the onset of lactation presents a major challenge to a cow’s homeostatic control mechanism.

The onset of lactation increases the demand for calcium. Each litre of milk requires circa 2g of calcium. In attempting to bridge the calcium deficit, the cow’s blood calcium level falls too low resulting in clinical or sub-clinical milk fever.

Research has shown in these situations, that the dry matter intake (DMI) of affected cows can drop to 30% of normal and plasma cortisol level can double, thus hindering the immune system.

The graph below demonstrates the number of times other issues are more likely to happen when a cow has clinical or sub-clinical milk fever.

GAIN Pre-Calver Gold

Irish forage (grass based) has been shown in many surveys to contain categorical deficiencies of key trace elements (selenium, copper, zinc, cobalt and iodine) and an excess of iron and molybdenum.

With respect to macro elements there is normally an excess of potassium, sodium, chlorine, and a deficiency of calcium and magnesium (adding to the milk fever prevention challenge). GAIN Pre-calver Gold has been formulated to reflect those realities and provide best in-class solutions.

New research

The Pre Calver Gold mineral range also incorporates Sel-Plex® and Bioplex® minerals; organic forms of micro-minerals, that have been shown in research to deliver additional benefits to the calf in utero during the dry period; improving calf health, calf growth rates post-birth, with better production and reproduction when they themselves become cows within the herd.

Watch Martin Ryan, GAIN Feed technical specialist, and farmer Cathal Moran discussing the importance of incorporating a dry cow mineral programme and making it easy for the calving season.

Order your GAIN Pre Calver Gold here

Browse the Superchoice Minerals range here