Identifying thin cows and taking steps early to improve their body condition is critical to achieving a successful breeding season, writes James Mullane, Teagasc Dairy Advisor.
The first step is to body condition score all the animals in the herd and then provide extra care and attention to thinner animals.
Normally on farms, the number of cows falling below the target body condition score of 2.75 prior to mating is less than 5% of the herd.
In this video, the first 2 cows in the cattle race are below the target body condition score of 2.75 at mating. Both of these animals are second lactation animals, producing 2.20kg of milk solids currently.
These cows require extra care and attention in order to increase their body condition. The steps that should be taken with this group of cows can be any of the following or a combination of them:
- Once a day milking – cows come into the parlour twice a day for feeding but are only milked once. In larger herds, these animals may be grouped together for preferential treatment, grazed closer to the milking parlour for less walking etc.
- Feed the cows fully with 24-36 hour allocations of grass with covers of 1,400 -1,500 kg dry matter per hectare of high DMD perennial ryegrass swards and supplement with concentrates where necessary to cover minerals etc. Do not use strip wires unless weather dictates otherwise.
- Top up the level of concentrates fed to the thinner cows. This in combination with once-a-day milking would result in an increase in cow body condition.
Video source: Teagasc Tipperary YouTube