Traditionally the period from three to four weeks before calving through to three to four weeks following calving has been considered the transition period.
This is a period where as much as 80% of the herd’s disease costs are generated and where up to 4% of cows are culled from the herd as a consequence of problems arising at this time. We are now being encouraged to think of this as a 90-day period extending from 60 days prior to caving through to 30 days following calving.
Given the close connection between metabolic diseases, reproductive performance, efficient rumen function and immune suppression, a carefully planned and executed transition feeding programme is now seen as a prime opportunity to set the herd up for a successful season.
For the dairy cow, numerous changes are occurring as they prepare to dry off and then set up for another birth and then a fresh lactation – changes such as:
In addition to these changes, many cows this year will need time for facial eczema damaged livers to heal requiring ad-lib feeding throughout the period – not to mention the perennial issue of providing sufficient time and feed for the required weight gain to occur so that target body condition scores can be reached by the start of calving.
However, if well managed, the scene can still be set for top milk yields and maximum fertility. If not, production potential will be curbed, and herd fertility will be adversely affected.
The focus of this period is to:
There are now a number management strategies and tools available as well as a range of products that can assist the herd manager to fully prepare the cows to successfully transition from late pregnancy and to become the highly efficient “athletes” that they are required to be on the modern dairy farm – talk it over with your vet sometime soon.