The benefits of blood profiling in lactating and transition dairy cattleMonday 21 January 2013
Held at the Rampant Bull, at Mitchells Auction in Cockermouth last December, with invitations sent to dairy farmers in Copeland and Allerdale, the meeting looked at the importance of balancing the diet correctly in both lactating and transition dairy cattle, especially important this year with the exceptionally wet weather destroying the quality of crops
Twenty four people, including 19 farmers, heard Ian Routledge, nutritionalist/ agronomist from Carrs Billington, explain how the weather pattern had more than doubled the average rainfall figures from June onwards while also reducing the number of sunlight hours, thus first cuts (silage) were not too bad but second and subsequent cuts were often poor in starch content with high lignane readings.
Furthermore cows did not summer well and those in early lactation were deficient in nutrients, often dropping three to four litres in milk production – a need to up the blend to increase starch content.
Dried cows often got the poorer quality forage and as previously only got a tub of minerals in the field. This summer’s high protein grass showed up in the blood samples and only recently has it been learnt that too much protein causes problems, while high yielding cows can be in negative balance (energy loss – high protein and low starch). Now suggested protein intake is 16% - a flatter curve in proteins.
John Dochwray from Galemire Vets explained how metabolic profiling can illuminate /pin-point many dairy cattle problems, including Johnes Disease, Renal Amyloidosis (low protein), Abomasal ulceration/thickened guts (low protein).
Working in conjunction with Richard Vecqueray of ‘Evidence Based Nutrition’, blood samples were taken on a West Cumbrian farm from early to late pregnancy stages and again after birth, to try and explain what went wrong and why. ‘Health and fertility are based on the nutrition of the dairy cow,’ explained Richard, furthermore Holstein cattle can be too warm when kept inside in wet summer periods, gaining excess weight – meant to be a lean breed. Richard explained that getting the diet balanced is like ‘walking the ridge’.
Comments on the feedback forms were positive and indicated that the information had been informative and many farmers would act on the information, including having forage samples analysed and testing blood before altering diet. While collecting in the feedback forms, several farmers commented that they had not been fully aware of the complexities of transition feeding and the time scale that diet could reflect on performance.