As you are well aware, the transition phase is a critical management point for cows on your dairy. The decisions made for this group has significant impacts down the line.
However, there are a couple of things you can do to improve your cows’ chances of success during this phase.
First, cow comfort, it is extremely important to be able to house and manage the close-up dry cows in a separate pen or area away from far-off dry cows and lactating cows. “If space is available a separate group for first calf heifers would be ideal,” suggests Gabriella Varga, Penn State University animal science professor.
The transition area should be kept clean and cows made comfortable. In addition, special care should be given to provide adequate bunk space so that each cow has a minimum of 24 inches of bunk space.
Control of stocking density in the close-up group is not easy, even in a well-designed facility, says Varga. This group consists of a variable number of cows throughout the year, and sometimes these cows are grouped together for a short period of time under a constant state of flux.
Also, “We know that adequate heat abatement measures for lactating cows are critical but we now know that dry cows also benefit from reduced heat stress,” she notes. In addition, overstocking not only influences access to stalls and feed, but affects air quality too. An overstocked special needs facility (greater than 80 percent) can be associated with fresh cow pneumonia problems.
Secondly, you need to keep a good handle on forage quality and consistency during the transition phase. Knowing total ration consumption numbers is also extremely helpful.
“As we approach the fall harvesting season plan to cover the forages provided to your dry cows so they do not have a drastic change in forage quality, type or quantity,” recommends Varga.
Maintaining normal blood calcium levels in dry cow and fresh cow rations is critical. The use of low potassium forages help prevent milk fever and hypocalcemia (low blood calcium).
“Think about preparing a cow for calving prior to dry off and how your forage inventories and cow facilities will change in the early fall months to accommodate these cows and number of cows calving,” she concludes.
Source: Penn State University