It’s been a good autumn that has helped bring some balance to a tough year on farms. As cows are housed and dried off, we now start focusing on the next lactation on many Irish dairy farms.
It can be a quieter time especially when the whole herd is dried off. The dry period is a time for rest and recuperation for both the farmer and the cow. The cow is going into the final stages of pregnancy growing the foetus. It is also a challenging time as being indoors is a new environment with new challenges.
It is well recognised that the most important period for the dairy cow is 60 days before calving and the first 30 days of her new lactation. While managing BCS and energy intakes around this time are key to a successful start to the lactation minerals also play a big role?
Minerals are often something that can confuse farmers which ones, how much and how do I give them.
Minerals play all sorts of roles in the cows’ body, most around metabolism and immune function. When you get down to individual minerals the list of functions in health and immunity are even more complex.
Why do I need minerals at all?
With many systems, different land types and forages minerals can vary hugely from farm to farm. We are also pushing production at the start of lactation which is rich in minerals meaning we need to ensure we match inputs with minerals being used in milk.
We need to ensure we balance deficiencies in our cows but also don’t cause toxicities by giving too many minerals. We do this by having some idea of what is low in our cows and then trying to strategically feed what the cow might be low in. Our system allows us to target specific minerals much more accurately. By giving more of what a cow might need and less of what she has enough of.
We encourage farmers to look at the mineral analysis on their farms by looking at soil, grazing and particularly winter forages being fed around calving time. You can also get mineral blood done and in some cases liver biopsies to look at copper levels.
Getting your mineral balance right in your cows allows her to focus on the job at hand. Poor mineral deficits can cause all sorts of problems that have huge knock-on effects on cow health and performance.
With a lot of minerals involved in immune function, these are really important especially when the cows’ immune system is lower around calving. Over the next few months, we will be delving deeper into the different minerals and their roles in the health of our dairy cows. Now is the time to plan your mineral feeding as the optimum time to start supplementing them is 8-6 weeks from calving. Our farmers have seen our targeted mineral supplementation making huge impacts on the profitability and health around calving.