What a wonderful day we had yesterday at our Dry Cow Management Meeting, held at Wycongill Farm, Bolton by Bowland, by kind permission of the Leeming family. The weather was glorious and crisp, highlighting the picturesque setting of the farm, overlooking views of Pendle Hill and the Ribble Valley.
The meeting was organised to highlight some important factors relating to the management of dry cows and what goals we should focus on. Speakers and topics included:
"The Importance of Body Condition Scoring" with Diane Roe, DN Sales Specialist
"Feeding the Dry Cow; Ration Formulation and Nutrition" with Debby Brown, DN Technical Development Manager
"Managing the Health of Transition Cows" with Neil Roberts, Vet & Director, Dalehead Vets
After a cup of tea or coffee and a welcome briefing from DN Sales Specialist Colin Price and farmer Malcolm Leeming, the guests were split into three groups and each group then made their way around the speakers' stations.
"Feeding the Dry Cow" with Debby Brown
Debby challenged guests to provide her with their thoughts on what was important in dry cow nutrition. She explained why dry matter intake (DMI) was the most important factor and spoke to the guests about feeding dry cows, different feeding strategies and how the key is to focus on filling her up, without overloading her with energy. The dry cow diet should be low in energy and high in fibre.
She demonstrated how to check the rumen fill on a cow and highlighted how important it is to spend time looking at dry cows, looking at the left side of the animal to see the rumen fill from that day, as this is a clear indicator of DMI.
Debby explained that too much energy in a dry cow diet can lead to problems with the liver and internal organs such as the ovaries. At the same time, underfeeding in the dry period can have a negative impact on colostrum quality. For these reasons, straw is an ideal feedstuff for dry cows.
Watch Debbie's talk here:
"Body Condition Scoring" with Diane Roe
Diane gave a demonstration to guests about body condition scoring (BCS), using dry cows from the Wycongill herd. She explained to guests how to properly BCS, assessing the angle between the hook and pin bones, before assessing whether the sacral and tailhead ligaments are visible, or if they are rounded or angular.
She showed guests how to feel the pins for the presence of a palpable fat pad and how to evaluate the visibility of the short ribs. Diane highlighted the essential requirement to measure BCS cows in order to help shorten calving intervals, maintain intakes and minimising post calving BCS, which can all effect fertility in early lactation cows.
Watch part of Diane's talk here:
"Managing the Health of Transition Cows" with Neil Roberts
Neil gave a wonderful talk to guests about the health problems associated dairy cows and how most problems occur around calving and within the first month post calving. These health issues included difficult calving, milk fever, ketosis, mastitis, metritis and displaced stomachs.
Neil highlighted that when the cervix is open for a calf to come out, it is also open for infection to get in. It was also pointed out that when a cow is about to calf, they have a dip in immunity, also known as 'immunosupressed.' Health problems such as mastitis, cleansing problems and metritis are tied in with this dip in immunity.
Watch part of Neil's talk here:
Neil also talked about housing dry cows and how the key is to minimise environmental changes, therefore avoiding stress to the pregnant cow, which can also lead to problems with birthing and health. He suggested the ideal time to move a pregnant cow away from the group and into a calving pen is when she is actually in labour.
The setup at Wycongill makes this a relatively easy task as they have sliding gates between pens, which also allows the calving cow to still see the other cows, again minimising stress and avoiding huge environmental changes. There is also a bolt hole from the calving pens for calves to go through and directly into the calf area.
It was also great to see some of the innovative technology in place at Wycongill Farm. The machine in the video below travels along a track around the barn, pushing up silage on it's first circuit, then top dressing with compound feed on a second circuit.
No trip to a dairy farm would be complete without a visit to the calf pens!
We finished the meeting with freshly made fish or sausage and chips with a choice of mushy peas, gravy or curry sauce, courtesy of Keiths Mobile Fish & Chips. This went down a treat with guests and certainly warmed everyone up!
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We hope to see you at our next event!