Management of Dairy Cows from Calving until Mating Start Date
Dr. Shane Leane PhD is part of the Progressive Genetics team, in the role of Dairy Specialist, Shane joined Progressive Genetics having completed a PhD in herd fertility, as well as having managed the Moorepark Curtins dairy herd. He has a wealth of knowledge in dairy systems, fertility management and crossbreeding.
Good fertility and compact calving are essential to maximise grass utilisation and farm profit. The target is to have 90% of the herd calved within 42 days from the planned start of calving and all cows calved by mating start date (MSD).
Figure 1: Seasonal management of fertility.
- Cows should calve at a BCS of 3.00 or 3.25
- Cows with low BCS at calving will have reduced milk yield and are more likely to have retained foetal membranes (RFM), a longer postpartum anoestrus period, increased likelihood of silent heats, and poor response to synchronization.
- Once a day milking can be used to improve energy status in early lactation, allow cows to improve BCS, advance the interval to resumption of cyclicity and improve overall fertility performance.
- Intervene promptly to treat cows with metabolic disorders such as milk fever, ketosis and displaced abomasum.
- If foetal membranes are still present by 24 hours after calving, it is defined as a retained placenta. Retained placenta is a risk factor for developing metritis and endometritis.
- Metritis is a systemic illness with a foul-smelling vaginal discharge occurring within 21 d after calving.
- Starting 4 weeks before MSD, record vaginal discharge scores using the metricheck device on cows calved >14 days.
- Cows calved >14 days and diagnosed with endometritis should be administered an intrauterine infusion of cephapirin (Metricure).
- Be proactive in treating non-cycling cows before MSD.
- Commence pre-breeding heat detection on April 1st. Implement a simple form of heat detection to identify non-cycling cows.
- Use the Progesterone-Ovsynch synchronisation protocol (Figure 2) for cows calved >30 days that are still not cycling on April 22nd.
Figure 2. Progesterone-Ovsynch protocol for anoestrous cows.
Benefits of getting calved cows out to grass as early as possible
- Increased animal performance - high quality diet with minimal supplements
- Recondition swards for the year ahead – stimulate growth and improve quality
- Maximise spring grass utilisation & minimise sward decay
- Reduce workload on the farm
- Research has shown each extra day at grass is worth €2.70/cow/day
- Maintain target Average Farm Cover (AFC) each week during Spring
- Allocate spring grass based on Spring Rotation Plan (SRP) (See Below)
- Achieve target post-grazing height of 3.5cm
- Maximise utilisation & recondition spring swards
- Steadily increase total feed allowance from calving into breeding
- Maximise milk solids production and fertility performance & minimise BCS loss