If you have dried off cows early to reduce milk production, it’s critical that you manage them carefully throughout their dry period to ensure they calve in successfully. The same is true for cows for dried off normally.
Dona Amaral-Phillips, a University of Kentucky dairy specialist, offers these tips for managing dry cows:
• “Dry cows should be fed a diet that provides them adequate, but not excessive, amounts of energy,” she says. “Feeding excessive amounts of energy has been shown to increase fresh cow problems, and in today’s financial situation, wastes financial resources.”
Dry cow diets should contain 0.60 to 0.62 Mcals NEL/lb of dry matter, and dry cows should maintain a body condition score in the range of 3.0 to 3.25.
• Dry cows are most susceptible to mastitis during the 2 weeks after dry off and the 2 weeks before calving. If dry cows are housed outside, make sure they are not congregating around shade trees where muddy areas can become prevalent.
• As spring turns to summer, cooling dry cows becomes more and more important. Heat stress will not only impact milk production in the dry cows’ next lactation, it will impact their unborn calves and even their grand-calves, says Amaral-Phillips. “Ideally, [dry] cows should be under fans in a barn, but rotation [of paddocks] with shade trees in pastures may help,” she says.
• If you are vaccinating dry cows to decrease the severity of environmental mastitis at calving or to prevent disease when calves are born, be sure to provide all required booster shots to ensure vaccine effectiveness.
For more recommendations on managing dry cows if you dry off early, click here.