If your fresh and high producing cows always have a sharp loss in body condition after calving, a greater occurrence of metabolic disorders, and delayed resumption of estrus, then it might be time to check your nutritional management. At the top of your nutrition checklist should be: Are you overfeeding energy to your dry cows?

A series of studies from the University of Illinois showed that cows may easily consume up to 80 percent more net energy for lactation (NEL) than required during the dry period, even when only moderate-energy (0.68 – 0.73 Mcal NEL/lb DM) diets were fed. They found that overfeeding energy during the dry period resulted in a drastic drop in feed intake and more negative metabolic response during the transition period.

The overfed cows had higher plasma concentration of non-esterified fatty acid (NEFA, an indication of greater mobilization of body fat) and beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHBA, indicator of ketosis), much higher liver fat storage (fatty liver disease), and greater incidence of metabolic disorders shortly after calving. In contrast, cows fed a “controlled-energy” diet during the entire dry period had more stable feed intake during the transition period, less reduction of body condition score, smoother metabolic adaptation, and similar milk production in early lactation.

Correct formulation of the diet and careful feed-bunk management are two keys to ensure the success of a high-straw, low-energy diet for dry cows.

Click here to learn more about formulating controlled-energy diets.


Source: William H. Miner Agricultural Research Institute Farm Report, December 2011