11 April 1997

After calving introduce concentrates gradually

RISING incidence of acidosis and record levels of displaced abomasa in dairy cows could be due to producers increasing concentrate levels too rapidly at calving.

Independent vet consultant Tony Andrews says that while the cows energy requirement increases three fold at the onset of lactation the rumen is unable to adapt to the sudden changes caused by calving.

"High levels of concentrates introduced at calving in an attempt to achieve high peak yields overwhelm rumen bugs which cannot cope with the sudden high level of energy," he explains.

The energy overload increases acid levels and slows the gut processes which causes the stomach walls to lose their tone. The abomasum can then become trapped underneath the rumen.

"High acid levels also lead to impaired horn growth allowing haemorrhages to occur inside the hoof which can then cause lameness later on in the season as the horn grows out," says Dr Andrews.

He, therefore, advises introducing concentrates slowly over a two to three-week period after calving with cows kept in small groups on straw bedding so that feed levels can be monitored.

"Long fibre is also vital because it stimulates the rumen processes improving muscle tone.

"Straw length should be at least two inches and should be supplied in mangers or troughs and not just as bedding," he adds.


CATTLE: WATCH FOR


&#8226 Parasites at grass.

&#8226 Lameness in wet conditions.

&#8226 Metabolic disorders.