Preventing milk fever
Now is the time to prevent milk fever in cows due to calve in the coming months.
Dr Barry Zimmermann who manages Dairy Australia's InCalf program said every dairy farmer's dream is to eliminate milk fever from the herd.
"Milk fever is a nutritional disease so it can be prevented, but the trick is in the timing. It's too late once the cows have calved. The key to preventing milk fever is suitable nutrition in the three weeks leading up to calving," Dr Zimmermann said.
During this time cows need to receive a diet with the right amount of energy, protein, fibre, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and trace elements; and the correct DCAD* level.
"It's quite a fine balance. To achieve the correct balance you need to have all components of the pre-calving diet tested for calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and DCAD levels. Even if you use a commercially prepared transition ration, you'll need to consider the impact of other components of the springer diet, such as pasture and hay," he said.
Feeds which carry a high risk for milk fever include pasture treated with effluent, high potassium molasses, legume pastures and concentrates or grain with added sodium bicarbonate.
"The benefits of preventing milk fever are far reaching so it may be worth working with a nutritionist to achieve the correct balance in the springer diet."
The most obvious benefit is not having the stress and cost of dealing with downer cows. But the less visible benefits affect the bottom line and animal welfare.
"For every clinical case of milk fever you see, up to eight other cows may be affected in some way. Preventing milk fever also improves milk production, herd fertility, herd health and animal welfare," Dr Zimmermann said.
To find out more about transition feeding, visit www.dairyaustralia.com.au/incalf or attend an InCalf transition feeding workshop, coming to your area soon. For workshop details email firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone (03) 9620 7283.
* DCAD refers to the Difference between Cations (sodium and potassium) and Anions (chloride and sulphur) in the Diet. In the industry it is always referred to as DCAD.