28 November 1997

Dry cow management is key to productivity

DRY cows demand the same high standards of management applied to cows in peak lactation.

Leading US dairy farmer Dennis Yousey, speaking at a Cheshire conference, said too many dairy farmers regard the dry period as unproductive and therefore unprofitable. This out-of-sight, out-of-mind approach to dry cows was massively underestimating nutritional needs at a critical time in the breeding cycle.

"The weeks when a cow is dry are some of the most important in her life," said Mr Yousey. "Manage cows badly during this time and you are jeopardising the future of the herd, its health and its productivity."

Mr Yousey milks 50 cows in New York State and is the countrys number one producer of solids. His Den-Barb herd average is 15,000 litres at 4% fat and 3.4% protein.

He told farmers at the Keenan organised conference at Cogents Grange Farm, Chester, that cows should be dried off as fast as possible. "We crash them. They are milked for the last time and then into the crash group and on just straw and water."

After five days they are moved to the dry cow group and fed a 14% TMR ration plus minerals. Cows will eat around 12.7-13.6kg DM a day with the aim of a 0.3kg liveweight gain, he said.

The pre-fresh group caters for cows in the last three weeks of pregnancy. "Its a time when you want to encourage rumen development. We aim for dry cows to be eating up to 10.9kg DM a day during the final stages of pregnancy.n

The out-of-sight, out-of-mind approach to dry cows is massively underestimating nutritional needs at a critical time… Dennis Yousey.