Oftentimes, these over-conditioned cows were cows that experienced long days in milk due to reproductive problems during the previous lactation. In herds where later-lactation cows are becoming over-conditioned, these late-lactation cows may need to be housed and fed separately where the energy content of rations is adjusted downward and more forages are fed to prevent these cows from becoming over-conditioned. At the same time, adequate energy and nutrients (e.g., protein) need to be supplied to maintain good milk production. The key is to recognize the problem early and take corrective measures to prevent over-conditioning of late-lactation cows.
Feed adequate but not excessive amounts of energy during the entire dry period
Overconsumption of energy during the dry period can negatively impact intake shortly before and after calving and can result in higher losses of body condition after calving. Both of these outcomes potentially increase the likelihood of metabolic diseases after calving and cows not milking as well during the next lactation. In addition, feed intake before calving impacts feed intake after calving, especially where feed intake drops sharply before calving. Studies have shown that cows with metritis after calving also had lower intakes before calving. Thus, it is critical to design feeding programs before calving that optimize intake.
Correctly sampling all forages for dry cows and using the test results to formulate rations are vital steps for avoiding overfeeding energy during the dry period. Overfeeding energy increases costs, but more importantly, it can negatively affect performance during the next lactation. Far-off dry cow diets are recommended to contain about 0.60 Mcal NEL/lb dry matter (calculated using the NRC model) and for Holstein cows provide 15 to 17 Mcal/day NEL. To achieve these lower energy concentrations, especially when corn silage provides part of the forages, 5 to 10 lb of chopped (2 to 3 inches in length) wheat straw or high neutral detergent fiber (NDF) grass hay should be added and the consumption behavior of cows monitored to make sure the TMR is not sorted. These diets need to contain adequate amounts of fiber (i.e., NDF), but not excessive amounts as can occur when poor-quality forages are fed. For example, if the NEL intakes are less than desired, the concentration of NDF is probably too high, and some of the high NDF forages need to be removed and replaced with other lower NDF forages. Likewise, if the NEL intake is higher than desired, dietary NDF should be increased and more high NDF forage added.