Silage most likely cause of metabolic problems for cows

Activity increases now on most farms, with the slurry and fertiliser seasons commencing, and spring calving is about to get into full swing, in both dairy and beef herds.

Hopefully dry weather will allow those with slurry tanks filling up or already full to travel on ground with minimal damage.

Metabolic Problems

As always, when calving commences around the country, many farms experience early calvers holding their afterbirth.

This problem needs to be addressed immediately.

Most would associate this condition with high yielding dairy cows, but this is not always the case.

Suckler cows are not immune from holding their afterbirth.

It can have major consequences when it comes to subsequent fertility of the affected cows.

Held cleanings will more often than not result in womb infections and metritis.

Silage is generally the main cause of metabolic issues which occur around calving.

The 2015 silage has proved to be challenging with regard to mineral supply and feed value.

Vets around the country are suggesting that due to some of the poor silage produced last year, cows are at more risk of metabolic disorders after calving.

Where the silage has not been balanced correctly for minerals, this has resulted in issues for cows at and around calving.

Dry cow diets

You need to take a close look at your dry cow diet and management, if you want to reduce the incidence of retained foetal membranes in your herd.

What is cow condition like? Are cows over-conditioned or under-conditioned at calving?

Are you disturbing cows in early labour? This can be a major issue in first calvers.

Are cows getting enough energy in their diet? Is the silage quality good enough? Or perhaps it is too good!

Do silage quality issues prevent cows from eating enough feed ? Is it wet or mouldy?

Is a sufficient supply of clean water available before and after calving?

Are young cows or heifers being bullied in the group? Try to group cows properly before calving starts.

Are you feeding concentrates to dry cows? Is it the correct amount and quality?

What dry cow mineral are you feeding, if any? Is it good enough to match your silage?

Are dry cows getting sufficient mineral volumes? Check the recommended rate on the bag!

How are you managing fresh cows? Are they eating and drinking sufficiently in the hours after calving?

Keep them in an individual pen with their calf for as long as possible, this will help you to monitor feed intake.

This list probably contains the most likely answer to any problem.

It may be one specific issue or a combination of a few.

Ensure that your cow’s environment is comfortable and suitable for purpose.

Act quickly if you have problems.

Seek advice from your vet and nutritionist as soon as possible.

If you have had a run of held cleanings or other problems, don’t wait to “see how the next few get on”.

It is a good idea to get the vet and nutritionist to consult with each other; it may result in a quicker resolution to your problem.

Silage problems

If silage is the cause of your problems, you must try to dilute its effects by feeding straw and perhaps balancing that with some concentrates.

The right mineral is critical for your dry cow particularly, if you start to encounter problems.

Issues such as excessive potassium and chloride are often the cause of these problems.

Early calf vigour

Another sign that your dry cow diet needs to be adjusted is if you are getting weak calves that are slow to stand up or drink after birth.

Managing fresh cows

Once you have a calf on the ground, you must try to ensure that they get sufficient colostrum.

How long can you leave the cow and calf in a straw bed on their own?

The longer the better, for bonding to occur.

This will also allow you to monitor the cow’s feed intake before she returns to the herd with her new offspring.

This critical period after calving can have a huge bearing on the cow’s subsequent fertility performance.


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