Editor's note: The following case study was written by Chad Robbins, dairy nutritionist from northern Ohio. He is affiliated with JBS United Inc.
I had been prospecting a 300-cow herd for about a year. But it was tough getting the producer’s attention.
The herd began to experience higher levels of ketosis and DAs. This continued to be a problem for the producer, no matter what he seemed to change. The nutritionist with whom he was working at the time advised him to begin adding straw to the ration, and still no results.
As time went on, and I was getting more of the producer's time and attention, the problem began to reveal itself to me. His cows were coming into the dry period severely over-conditioned; hence, causing a very high level of ketosis, DAs, and death within the first 60 days after calving.
Now that I had knew the problem, I needed to convince the producer that I could solve it for him quicker and better than his current nutritionist. Through the advice of his nutritionist, and being at his wits end, the producer sold a majority of his over-conditioned cows and bought cows to replace them.
Well, the problem went on for another three to four months with no results. Milk production continued to fall, even with the recently purchased cows.
I got my chance.
For a temporary fix, we added choline to the pre-fresh group to help with getting the ketosis under control until we could get to the source of the problem and find a solution for it.
After reviewing pens and movement of cattle from pen to pen, it became apparent why we were having the problem. There were four pens for the lactating cows — a high group, mature cows, heifers, and problem breeders. They were moving cows that they could not get bred AI to a pen with a bull to get bred. However, due to space limitations, they could only keep 40 to 45 cows in that pen. We changed this pen to cows that get pregnant after 200 days in milk and decreased the ration density to keep them from putting on too much condition before drying off.
After the changes, the cows that were freshening in had better body scores and ketosis became minimal.