Transition cows experience a myriad of challenges prior to calving. Among them, the switch from a high-forage to a high-grain diet within three weeks of calving. You can ease this adjustment period by avoiding the following practices, as outlined by Bill Weiss, dairy nutritionist at Ohio State University. Weiss presented this information at the Northeast Ohio Dairy Conference held recently in Canton, Ohio.
- Avoid feeds which reduce dry matter intake, especially during the last week before calving.
- Don’t simply blend a portion of the dry-cow diet with the fresh-cow diet. Each group requires specific levels of energy, protein, fiber, starch and vitamins. However, using ingredients that were included in both the dry-cow diet and the fresh-cow diet is a good idea.
- Don’t formulate diets based on expected intake per day. Intake by pre-fresh animals varies significantly due to differences in days before calving. For example, during the last three weeks before calving, cows consume about five percent less feed than far-off dry cows. However, cows consume 15 percent less feed during the last week before calving. To compromise, measure dry matter intake and balance diets for about 10 percent less intake than what you measured.