As the breeding season approaches on farms, the panel at last night’s Sustainable Breeding Summit discussed cow nutrition prior to breeding.

Springtime on many farms has been a challenge with the weather turning as many farmers looked to get cows out.

As a result, some farms have cows that are in a lower than ideal body condition score (BCS) ahead of the breeding season.

Sustainable Breeding Summit

On last night’s episode of the Sustainable Breeding Summit, Martin Kavanagh asked Munster Bovine veterinary surgeon Denis Howard to explain the term ‘fully fed’.

Denis said: “We are three to four weeks away from the start of breeding on farms and what has happened in the spring has happened.

“From now on, we want to ensure that the cows are fully fed. So basically what they are taking in is matching what they are producing.

“So that is really getting a handle on how much grass they are taking in e.g., a cow producing 26L, if she’s taking 15kg of grass dry matter/day – she needs 3kg of concentrates.

“So getting getting a handle on how much grass they are taking in and how much they are producing, so you can fill the gap to ensure they are fully fed and that their nutrition is as good as it can be coming up to breeding.”

Low BCS cows

Asked about cows that are in too low of BCS heading into the breeding season, Howard said: “I would advise farmers to take stock and do a rough BCS of the entire herd.

“What I mean by rough is pick out the thin and under condition cows – cows that are less the 2.75 of a BCS.”

Continuing he said: “There are a couple of options for farmers that have cows in a low BCS.

“If the cow type is suitable, once-a-day (OAD) milking is a really practical option. Run them with the herd and feed them twice-a-day and milk them OAD.

“What you are effectively doing is dropping their output by a third and their nutrition is staying the same.

“They will be in a positive energy balance, which will allow them gain a little weight and condition and they will [cycle] quicker.”