Management tips for the dry cow period

By Sarah Maher, Alltech Ireland regional manager

AgriLand has teamed up with Alltech to bring to you the Alltech dry cow action plan – an informative, eight-week series of articles to help you make the best decisions this dry cow period and take steps to ensuring a trouble-free spring and profitable lactation period in 2020.

Proper management and well-balanced nutrition of the dry cow is critical to obtaining maximum dry matter intake, good health, increased reproductive efficiency and optimum milk production in the following lactation.

As mentioned in our previous dry cow action plans, to ensure the dry cow period is successful, we focus on the four pillars of the Alltech dry cow programme:

  • Body condition score (BCS);
  • Minerals;
  • Nutrition; and
  • Management.

In this action plan, we will focus on management tips.

Management

On paper, you could have the best dry cow management plan in terms of feed and minerals. But, not sticking to this plan can lead to a lot of stress for the cow around calving.

Group movements

Moving from cubicles to a calving box can have a significant adverse effect on dry matter intake.

  • Dry cows should not be moved in the last week of pregnancy. Where group changes are necessary, best practice suggests moving dry cows no closer than 14 days from calving;
  • Where a pre-calving group change is required immediately, best practice suggests a move as late as possible (immediate signs of calving, water bag, feet showing) causes less stress and effect on intake compared to moving 48–72 hours pre-calving;
  • Removing the calf from the cow within one to two hours is a preferred system;
  • There should be no dramatic changes in the diet (e.g. new silage introduced) close to calving, especially if there is no mineral analysis carried out;
  • To maintain feed intakes after calving, it is strongly recommended to have a fresh cow group that can accommodate fresh cows for up to two weeks post-calving;
  • In the initial hours after calving, the cow should be offered the dry cow diet with some added post-calving mineral. Intake and achieving rumen fill are the most important factors at this point; and
  • Including a live yeast, such as Yea-Sacc® from Alltech, in the dry and milking cow mineral has proven to help increase intakes and, therefore, help improve rumen fill.

Shed stocking rate

  • Dry cows need one bed per cow and one feed space per cow (0.75m; 100% SR);
  • Close-up dry cows on straw beds need 9–10m², not including the loafing and feeding area; and
  • 90% SR is preferred for dry cows within three weeks of calving.

Bunk management

  • Silage/feed should be pushed up regularly to ensure intakes (four to five times/day); and
  • Weekly cleaning of feed troughs is required, as feed will build up and become mouldy, which will depress intakes.

Water

Clean drinking water must always be available for dry cows:

  • One large trough per 20 cows;
  • One small trough per 10 cows;
  • Trough space of 5cm per cow; and
  • Water pressure at 20L/min.

cows

Further information

AgriLand has teamed up with Alltech to bring to you the Alltech dry cow action plan – an informative, eight-week series of articles to help you make the best decisions this dry cow period and take steps to ensuring a trouble-free spring and profitable lactation period in 2020.

Part 1: The importance of a successful dry cow programme

Part 2: Mineral nutrition: Getting it right this dry cow period

Part 3: The importance of an ideal body condition score for dry cows

Part 4: The key principles of dry cow nutrition

For more information on the Alltech dry cow action plan, call Alltech on: 059-910-1320 to get in touch with an Alltech representative; or click here