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Dry cow management

Agriculture

Dry cow management

Correct management during the dry period is critical to the welfare and profitability of dairy cows. Before drying off, assessing body condition score (BCS) and during the dry period, correct nutrition and housing are all critical aspects. If there are any limitations in nutrition or management this may have an adverse effect on subsequent production performance.

Current research from AFBI indicates that:
  • It is difficult to modify BCS during the eight week dry period itself
  • Cows should be body condition scored in late lactation
  • Target drying off BCS of 2.75-3
  • Cows below the target BCS should be fed to gain condition before drying off

Within the CAFRE Dairy herd significant emphasis is placed on body condition scoring, particularly in the 8-12 weeks before drying off. Nutrition during the dry period is another critical aspect as it can determine the level of metabolic diseases post calving i.e. milk fever. On this basis cows are divided into two feeding groups (close up and far off) and fed accordingly at Greenmount.

Management practices to improve dry cow management on dairy farms include:
  • Body condition scoring of late lactation cows
  • Adjusting feeding according to body condition score of late lactation cows
  • Conserving forages specifically for dry cows
  • Mineral analysis of dry cow forages and TMR
  • Dietary cation anion balance (DCAB) application
  • Blood sampling post calving dairy cows
  • Recording transition cow health issues
  • Ketosis prevention and treatment
  • Strategies to minimise night time calving