The importance of managing body conditioning scores has been highlighted following reports of an increased number of caesarean sections in calving cows. Strong grass growth has led to more overly fit cows and, as a result, more difficult calvings.
Robert Logan from SAC Consulting, says that delaying weaning will help reduce cow condition but calves will suffer on short swards, so creep feeding is essential.
Other tips are:
- All cows must be weaned no later than three weeks pre-calving to ensure they produce sufficient colostrum
- An alternative option is to wean cows early, put their calves on to aftermaths and heavily graze dry cows on poor quality pastures. As a rough guide, stocking rates should be double normal numbers
- Try to force cows to have as much exercise as possible. For example, position water troughs away from feed supplies
- In extreme cases, consider housing cows. Rations should supply around 70 MJ ME/cow/day containing at least 10 per cent CP in the dry matter and minerals. As soon as cows have calved they can be turned back outside to graze
- In all cases, try to provide additional magnesium for the last month of pregnancy. This might be most easily supplied with a low-energy magnesium block/lick
- In herds with a long calving period, it may be sensible to split them on expected date of calving and for example house the early calvers and keep later calvers outside and delay weaning them
- Don’t forget Spring calvers are likely to be much fitter than average at weaning this autumn too
- If a cow has a caesarean section, discuss with your vet the possibility of inducing calving, particularly where expected dates of calving are known
Robert, who manages the Animal Health and Welfare section of FAS, added: “In general, cows have come through the winter well, followed by a normal Spring then tremendous grass growth. According to anecdotal evidence, there has been an increase in the number of caesarean sections taking place, which is largely due to cows being too fit. Effectively managing body conditioning scores will help mitigate the number of caesareans required.”
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