Home' NZ Dairy Farmer : May 2011 Contents 76 The Dairyman MAY 2011
PROVIDED dairy cows are dried off in
the correct body condition, it's tempting
to think that the road to a successful
calving will be a smooth and easy ride.
Energy and protein requirements are rela-
tively easy to meet from forages and deliber-
ately including lower nutrient density feeds
like straw may well be appropriate to help
maintain rumen capacity.
Unfortunately, mineral, trace element and
vitamin supplies from winter forages are
most likely not ideal and deficiencies can
jeopardise the health of the cow and calf and
future production. Winslow free access
molassed mineral blocks are a convenient,
effective way of helping to balance the diet
of cows between drying off and calving.
Supplementation should be considered
because several important factors compound
together as calving approaches. Cows that
have been milking well into the autumn may
already have depleted mineral reserves --
especially if mineral and trace element sup-
plementation has been reduced post mating.
Calving is by far the most stressful and
dangerous period in the cow's life. Her
appetite and immune system needs to be
optimized to deal with the stresses of calving
and coming into milk but often both are com-
promised around calving.
Calcium plays a key role in muscle func-
tion and whilst acute deficiency around calv-
ing is typified by milk fever, less severe defi-
ciency is thought to compromise rumen
function and hence appetite.
Reduced appetite can increase weight loss
which compromises liver function which can
further reduce appetite.
A cow needs to be able to give birth to a
relatively big, physiologically advanced off-
spring that can quickly stand up and suckle;
if necessary she also has to be able to run
away from or stand up to predators (or peo-
ple) if necessary at short notice. Is it likely
that winter grazed and conserved forages
alone are going to best prepare her for these
challenges -- especially if the weather at calv-
Grazed winter grass does not have the
ideal mineral profile for cows in late preg-
nancy but is typically better than forage bras-
sicas like kale and swedes which are defi-
cient in manganese, zinc, selenium, iodine,
copper and cobalt.
Brassicas contain a lot of calcium relative
to the needs of the pregnant cow which
makes the dietary uptake and bone calcium
mobilisation system lazy.
Brassicas are also marginal in their supply
of phosphorus and magnesium whilst con-
taining high concentrations of potassium
which further increases the risk of metabolic
Springer cows should be introduced to the
grass-based ration they are likely to be con-
suming post calving which will typically be
better than brassicas but still lower in mag-
nesium and higher in potassium than the
Getting dry cows to consume minerals,
trace elements and essential vitamins can be
difficult. Winslow Molassed Mineral Blocks
rely on animals seeking major minerals --
especially sodium, magnesium and phospho-
rus -- when deficient and letting the trace ele-
ments and vitamins piggy-back ride along at
carefully considered levels.
Compound feed is a good way of deliver-
ing precisely mixed minerals to cows but
normally is not required until close to calv-
Experience has shown that cows which
have previously been unsupplemented ini-
tially consume blocks quickly and that cows
on grass consume blocks at a lower rate than
cows on brassica crops.
Winslow Cattle Blocks are available in a
range of formulations and sizes, providing
hard-core essential nutrition in situations
where other methods fail. -- Copy supplied
Molasses blocks deliver nutrients when other routes fail
• Simplify HT & AB procedures
• Spot the bulling cow with ease
• Quick, reliable service (please
PHONE STUART MAKGILL
Home 07 322 1076 | Mobile 027 293 5537
BRANDING WEST OTAGO Ayrshire and Holstein
breeder Ken Eade started freeze branding
five years ago after four heifers ripped
their ear tags out on a netting gate the day after they
"The thing with ear tags is that the more cows you
milk the harder it is to identify them." Ken said.
"We still put ear tags in, but if they come out now it
doesn't really matter because they've got permanent
ID on their rump."
"It works great for herd testing and it's easy to see
when cows come in season because you're normally
driving along behind them and it's that end that you
see." he said.
For the last three years Ken has had Stuart Makgill,
of NZ-Wide Freeze Branding, apply a permanent
freeze brand to all his heifers in July each year.
"We certainly recommend them to anyone," Ken
said. "We found with Stuart, the brands were much
bigger and easier to read. He does a good job. He's
very quick and very thorough and he's always got a
good story to tell."
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