September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.

Preparing cows for post-partum

Grummer recommends Goldilocks diet, feeding the animals just right
Ric Grummer,<br /><!-- 1upcrlf -->UW-Madison <br /><!-- 1upcrlf -->professor emeritis
Ric Grummer,<br /><!-- 1upcrlf -->UW-Madison <br /><!-- 1upcrlf -->professor emeritis

By by Kelli Boylen- | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

CALMAR, Iowa - "Early post-partum really is the most critical time in a cow's life," Dr. Ric Grummer said.
Grummer, Professor Emeritis from UW-Madison and currently with Balchem Corporation, presented at the Transition Cow workshop held recently in Calmar, Iowa, which was jointly sponsored by Iowa State University and PDPW.
Pre-fresh diets need to be geared toward meeting the cow's energy requirements, nothing more, and nothing less.
"It is really not difficult to meet the energy requirements of dry cows," Grummer said.
Many nutritionist are advocating the "Goldilocks Diet" - in other words to feed the cow "just right" by feeding to her energy requirements to better prepare her for post-partum.
Feeding steam-up diets during the pre-fresh transition period have been promoted for decades as a way to acclimate the rumen to higher concentrate diets that are fed after calving. While steam-up diets lead to greater intakes "greater pre-calving dry matter intake didn't transfer into greater post-partum dry matter intake (DMI)." Milk yield was also not effected.
Grummer said the only time steam-up diets might be appropriate would be in conditions that result in abnormally low feed intake such as heat stress or muddy lots.
"If you do not need to steam-up, then one dry cow diet such as the Goldilocks diet should work," Grummer said.
But he also cautioned that a unique close-up diet is warranted to include unique supplements that help prepare cows for the metabolic challenges that occur around the time of calving. Beneficial supplements include rumensin, rumen-protected choline and anionic salts.
In the three weeks leading up to calving Grummer said crude protein (CP) levels should never go below 12 percent. The CP levels are needed to maximize fiber digestion and to maximize microbial protein synthesis.
Grummer said is it typically easier to meet a cow's pre-fresh energy requirements than post-fresh needs, since the early lactation cows typically do not consume enough feed and the result is negative energy balance.
Negative energy balance in a post-fresh cow can result in poor immune response, poor reproduction and metabolic disorders.
"Negative energy balance is when crisis occurs," he said.
He said negative energy balance is not due to milk production, but rather due to inadequate energy intake.
Feeding post-fresh transition cows the right diet can be a challenge. Increasing starch can increase energy density, increase milk yield and possibly result in fewer metabolic disorders, but it also can increase displaced abomasums (DA) and acidosis. Grummer believes a 25 percent starch diet is reasonable, and increases in starch feeding should be accompanied by monitoring for DAs and acidosis.
Maximizing energy intake also requires feeding high quality forages that contain highly digestible fiber.
During the postpartum period, a cow's needs for amino acids, crude protein and metabolizable protein are high.
Grummer said dairy producers should consider feeding higher protein diets during the post-fresh transition period. Higher protein diets should include feed that are rich in undegradable protein. Protected essential amino acids should also be considered to meet the unique requirements during this time and create space for more flexibility in diet formulation.
Because of the cost of protein supplements and environmental concerns there is pressure to scale back dietary protein, but producers need to be careful about reducing protein in post-fresh cows.
"A 21-day post-fresh pen allows brief periods of feeding diets higher crude protein and metabolizable protein," Grummer said.
Grummer also presented information about pen movement during the transition period.
Pen movements have become more common as more and more producers move to freestall barns. Every time a cow is moved to a different pen - for breeding, dry off, production/ feeding groups, etc - she has to reestablish social relationships, find the water and feed sources, get used to new stalls and headlocks.
Studies have shown cow behavior is much more aggressive the first three days in a new grouping, which significantly increases stress behaviors.
Some recommend all-in all-out (AIAO) moving strategies, which is placing a group of cows in a pen at once, and having them gradually leave as they calve and then moving in a new group. This can create a more stable environment with smoother transitions, fewer aggressive interactions, less stress and more feed intake, but it also increase space/ facility needs.
"If you are bringing new cows to the calving area daily, the behavior never gets a chance to calm down," he said.
Although there is less stress to the cows, Grummer cited research showing that it did not translate to more productive or healthier cows. Therefore, it may not be worth the additional cost of having additional space/pens.
"Although research evidence is not overwhelming, minimizing cow movement is probably a good thing," he said.
Grummer recommended moving cows into close-up pens weekly and moving cows to maternity pens when birthing is imminent.
He also recommended having a post-fresh pen where cows can be monitored more closely and be fed more crude protein, with a stocking density of less than 100 percent.
"Density also makes a big difference," he said. Overcrowding cows results in shorter average eating times, accelerated eating rates and increased aggression at feeding.
"Research says pre-fresh cows need 30 inches of bunk space, and that same recommendation goes for post-fresh," Grummer said.
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