A farmers’ booklet on transition cow feeding, reporting the results of one part of a major Research Challenge Fund study, has just been published by AgriSearch. This study involved 1,217 dairy cows on 10 Northern Ireland dairy farms over a two-year period.  Cows were managed on one of three treatments during the dry period:

  • Concentrates offered for the full eight weeks of the dry period
  • Concentrates offered for the final three weeks of the dry period
  • No concentrates offered during the dry period

For cows managed on high input systems the results of the study support the recommendation of a target condition score at drying off of 2.75.  Cows with a condition score greater than 3.0 at drying off are likely to have lower intakes and may have more health problems during the subsequent lactation.  This target condition score (2.75) may not be appropriate for cows managed on low input systems.

When cows have a condition score of 2.5 or above at drying off, and are offered good quality silage together with a quality dry cow mineral supplement during the dry period, there are unlikely to be milk yield, health or fertility benefits arising from offering concentrates during the dry period.

However, when cows are very thin (condition score of 2.25 or less) at drying off, the quality of the dry cow ration would appear to be more important.  Thin cows which received no concentrates during the dry period had an increased risk of being culled during the first 60 days of lactation.

Copies of the booklet from AgriSearch, the Northern Ireland Agricultural Research and Development Council are available here.

Image O’Gorman Photography