The transition cow period can be defined as the period three weeks pre-calving and three weeks post-calving.

During this period, cows go through a number of physiological challenges and it is often where issues that appear around calving occur.

Most of these issues come down to poor management.

And, a lot of issues can be avoided by having cows in the correct body condition score (BCS) ahead of calving.

Although it may be too late to correct BCS in cows, it may be prudent to watch cows with BCS issues a little closer as calving approaches.


Getting transition cow management right is key to cows having a successful calving period and lactation.

Poor management during this period can also lead to an increase in calf mortality due to difficult calvings and weak calves.

Examples of issues that can arise during the transition period include: Udder oedema; milk fever; retained placenta; displaced abomasum (stomach); laminitis; metritis; ketosis; and fatty liver syndrome – all of which result in lost profits.


Keeping dietary calcium levels low pre-calving, and supplementing cows with minerals pre-calving can reduce the risk of production diseases.

The risk of milk fever is reduced if dietary calcium levels can be maintained below 0.5% of dry matter (DM) before calving.

Preventing the occurrence of production-related diseases is better than dealing with the issues once they have occurred.

Cows with milk fever are eight times more likely to develop mastitis early in lactation. A negative energy balance in late-pregnancy is more likely to develop a displaced abomasum (DA) in lactation.

Transition cow

Getting the transition period right on farms during the autumn-calving period can help farmers in a number of ways.

Calving is an already busy period on farms and dealing with sick cows only increases the workload.

It is also important to note that a large majority of antibiotics used on farms are used during the calving period.

So by preventing issues around calving, you can reduce the amount of these antibiotics being used on farms.