Supplementary feed is required for thin cows with their calves turned out where there is little grass available. To begin cycling, cows must regain condition and be in a positive energy balance. The leaner the cow the faster she needs to regain condition to begin cycling. It is really important to especially look after cows rearing twins, young cows and lean cows.
Energy is key. Concentrates fed on the ground are ideal and readily available. Potatoes/roots are also a great source of energy (if available locally) and can be fed on the ground. Alternative forage should be offered (where possible) if the grass is below 4cm, to provide long fibre. If this is not possible, feeding a more fibrous source of concentrate feeding such as sugar beet pulp/draff would be of benefit .
How to feed?
Feed on the ground (nuts/rolls) in a clean part of the field to avoid competition between cows, poaching, mud and disease associated with trough feeding. Where using troughs, move regularly to avoid build up of diseases such as coccidiosis. A concentrate feed of around 14% crude protein and 12.5 ME is adequate.
Providing 2kg/cow/day concentrates will provide sufficient energy to either produce 4kg of milk or reduce liveweight loss by just over 0.5kg per day. They will be quickly eaten and have minimal disruption on the cows’ grazing behaviour.
Whether it is a bought in compound or a homemix, always ensure that appropriate magnesium supplementation is given at this critical time along with other minerals and trace elements.
How long to feed for?
To a certain extent cows will tell you when feeding can be stopped by being slow or not even bothering when feed is put out. Whatever the level of feeding at the start of mating, continue it and try not to make sudden changes especially in the sensitive period in the lead up to bulling and for 5 weeks after bulling.
Karen Stewart, Nutritionist
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