Dairy producers should stop blaming the Holstein for poor fertility and problem calvings and start concentrating on better dry cow feeding regimes.

Keenan nutritionist David Beaver told delegates at the Maize Growers Association Conference at Hartpury College, that current standards of nutritional management are considerably inadequate.

“There are too many issues relating to poor fertility, condition score, milk composition, post-calving problems and reduced longevity which are associated with nutrition management rather than genetics.”

Feeding a ration containing chopped straw with significant amounts of lactation ration during the dry period provides an opportunity to feed maize silage or even crimped grain maize, he reminded delegates.

“A significant part of the starch component of the dry cow ration – 10-12% DM basis – can be met by the inclusion of maize.”

He, therefore, advised offering a diet consisting of 9MJ metabolisable energy and 13% crude protein in a 50:50 straw and lactation ration.

Trials conducted on 32 dairy farms over the last three years in France using a mixed ration with about half chopped straw and half lactation ration showed improved cow health and reductions in calving issues, such as retained membranes, metritis, milk fever, ketosis and displaced abomasums, he explained.

“Pre- and post-calving feed intakes were also improved, associated with less body condition loss after calving.”

The impact on fertility is currently being examined, but Prof Beaver indicated that early reports showed quicker returns to oestrus activity after calving.

This regime should be started the minute the cow is dried off rather than the day you bring her in, he stressed.

“The trial work has also shown improved rumen health offers other benefits in the form of reduced risk of displaced abomasums as the rumen is working harder and at a larger capacity.”

chrissie.lawrence@rbi.co.uk