26 May 1995

Feed cake before calving…

FEED concentrates six weeks before calving to reduce the risk of lameness in early lactation.

That is the advice of Dr Richard Murray, department of veterinary and clinical science, University of Liverpool.

"Concentrate feeding should start six weeks before calving with 1kg of a low calcium and phosphorus, and high magnesium cake," he says. "That feed rate should be increased by 1kg a fortnight, so that cows are fed 3kg by calving".

Dr Murray claims the stepped dry cow feeding is necessary to achieve the right balance of rumen bugs. A sudden increase in concentrate to 8kg within two weeks of calving could lead to rumen acidosis. That would damage the blood supply to the foot, increasing the risk of lameness.

He stresses he is not advocating "steaming up" and that feeding cows early in the dry period is when the energy demand for foetal growth is greatest. "To prevent large calves it is more important to dry off cows at a condition score below three than to restrict energy intake," claims Dr Murray.

&#8226 Foot trimming at drying off should be geared to dry cow management according to Scandinavian research, claims Dr Murrayl.

For more on dry cow management, turn to page 50.