Right now, a lot of farms are in the middle of “fall freshening”. Having a good dry cow program is crucial to getting a cow starting out right and headed for peak milk. Dry cow programs vary a lot-everything from fully acidified to a simple “Goldilocks” diet. What works well for one farm doesn’t always work on another. Having said that, there are a few things that every farm should avoid doing to prevent problems. Let’s talk about seven sure-fire ways that will cause problems at freshening:
1. Overcrowd the dry cows
The number one cause of metabolic issues is overcrowding. Surprised?
A dry cow needs 30 inches of bunk space and at least 90 square feet to lay in.
2. Move a dry cow at the last minute.
The second largest factor in metabolic issues are pen moves. Move them a minimum of two weeks prior
to calving. If that won’t work, just leave them calve in the pen or stall they have been in since they went dry.
3. Feed too much corn.
Too many carbs cause insulin resistance which triggers metabolic problems. In the winter, the levels in the ration can be a little higher, but typically starch levels should be 12-16%.And don’t forget to count the corn in the corn silage.
4. Let the dry cows sort their feed.
Sorting the straw or hay out of a dry cow ration is a favorite sport for cows. Sorting can lead to acidosis in dry cows, causing some major issues. Straw should be chopped 2 inches or less.
5. Give them moldy or yeasty feed.
Mold or yeast cause major upsets in the rumen and cause nutrients to be unavailable. A common cause of metabolic issues at freshening.
6. Feed them too much potassium.
Too much potassium is a milk fever guarantee. Even mild levels of potassium can cause sluggishness or retained placentas.
Dilute out high potassium or feed an acidified diet (anionic salts).
7. Don’t provide enough protein.
They need to build a calf and produce colostrum dry the latter days of the dry period. A cow needs 1000-1200 grams of metabolizable protein minimum to do all this. They need it and if it isn’t in the feed, they use muscle to meet that need. This results in weak cows, poor quality or amounts of colostrum or weak calves.