For years we have recognized the importance of excellent dry cow feeding. We have engineered the dairy cow into a high production machine that does not tolerate much disruption. A cow must calve in excellent condition with no health problems and must be eating well. If she does calve and does not eat well afterwards, results can be disastrous.
When a cow calves it cannot eat enough food to support the levels of milk production it wants to produce. In the first 90 days of lactation she can draw heavily from her body stores of fat. If anything reduces her intake of food she runs the risk of ketosis and twisted stomachs. If this is allowed to continue, the reduced feed intake will take away the fat reserve she had, and you paid for, and it will not be available for production.
When cows are drawing from their body reserves too quickly they will not show heat signs and reproductive performance will suffer.
In many cases cows go undiagnosed in early lactation. Suffice it to say, if a cow is not eating at maximum intake she is sick. If it is not addressed she will perform poorly. If this is allowed to happen in the following lactation there is a very good chance that the cow will have to be culled from the heard. This is very costly.
Over the last 10 years there are many successful methods for feeding dry cows, some easy and some difficult. This is a result of the recognition that we are ending up with higher levels of potassium in our soils as a result of higher stocking densities and manure spreading.
Most of the programs on the market are trying to reduce the effect of potassium or remove high potassium forages. Examples of these feeding strategies are as follows:
-Feeding lower potassium forages such as corn silage (our favourite)
-Feed high rates of pellets that contain higher fiber ingredients like beet pulp that reduce high potassium intake forage (expensive).
-Feed a supplement that contains anionic salts. These salts tie up the potassium so that it is neutralized (effective).
-Feed high levels of magnesium oxide designed to reduce the absorption of potassium (difficult to ensure high magnesium intake).
-Feed high levels of straw to reduce forage intake of high potassium forages (Effective but we don’t want her to lose body fat in the dry cow period).
The way we treat dry cows has a significant effect of herd performance and animal health, maybe the most important single thing. Cows can produce well on reasonably good forages if they are healthy. They produce poorly on excellent forages if they aren’t healthy.
DO NOT BE SATISFIED WITH COWS NOT EATING WELL JUST BEFORE AND AFTER CALVING. If they aren’t, something is wrong… very wrong. It can literally cost you thousands of dollars in lost milk production, poor reproduction, premature culling, and slow genetic improvement of the herd.
We offer a wide variety of feeds to be fed to dry cows. We do this simply because there are very different forages on farms. The cost of feeding diets that are not balanced properly with the forage is significant.
Specific feeding recommendations should come from our technical sales people when feeding close up dry cows. There are several small details that must be in place to ensure minimal problems at or after calving. The products listed below are not magical. They work properly in specific situations. If the forages do not match the assumptions we have made in the programs the products will not work properly. Again, the products are not magic. If the forages and feeding rates match the specific concepts of each product the program will work very well.
We offer the following products for dry cows:
Spectrum Dry Cow Supplement
This feed is designed to be fed to dry cows in the last three weeks before calving. It is fed with corn and high levels of corn silage. This product must be fed with forages that have low levels of potassium.
Spectrum Dry Cow Complete Feed
This product is essentially The Spectrum Dry Cow Supplement with the grain included. In cases where there is not on farm grain available or it is too inconvenient to feed to the dry cows this product can be easily and accurately fed. Like the supplement this product needs to be fed with forages that have low potassium levels.
Spectrum Dry Cow Complete Feed with Bio Chlor
This complete feed can be fed with forages that are high in potassium. The product contains ionic salts that adjust the cation/ anion balance in such a way that the negative impact of high potassium is neutralized. This product should be used in situations where the average potassium level in the diet rises above 1.5% of the dry matter intake.
Spectrum Dry Cow Premix
Good quality forage is all that is needed to support the dry cow through the “far off period”. This is the period she is dry not including the three weeks before she calves. No additional sources of energy or protein are required in this period. Spectrum Dry Cow Premix is designed to supply a healthy concentration of vitamins and minerals to prepare the cow for her next lactation. Cows are not sensitive to slight nutrition imbalances in this period but it is very important to switch cows onto a detailed feeding program 3 weeks prior to calving. Anything less than 2 weeks prior to calving will not give the cow adequate time to adjust to the specific needs of the close-up period. Imbalances in the close-up period can lead to significant metabolic problems at calving and after calving. This can affect cow health, milk production, body condition, and reproductive performance.