14 April 2000

It pays to take good care of freshly calved cows

SPENDING a little extra time taking care of a freshly calved cow will produce benefits in milk yield and cow health.

Derbyshire-based ADAS consultant Paul Macer told a MAFF-sponsored dairy cow welfare meeting in Northants that a cow can become dehydrated by the time she finishes calving.

"If you take her a bucket of warm water she will drink it; she may not have drunk properly for up to 24 hours."

Giving her easy access to water will re-hydrate her, stretch her rumen and increase rumen pH – possibly reducing acidosis risks. Ensure plenty of clean fresh water remains available to encourage her to drink, he added.

"Also offer plenty of fresh milking cow ration and make it easily available." She may also eat more if kept in peace after calving in a box.

But when this is not practical, his colleague, Tanya Moore suggested keeping freshly calved cows in smaller groups for their first week or so after calving. Then it is possible to ensure that they are eating well and observe them more closely than when in the main milking herd.

"Producers in the US tend to spend a lot of time with these freshly calved cows, going to the extreme of taking their temperatures daily," said Mr Macer.

"It is a successful strategy; a slight rise in temperature warns you to look out for uterine or mastitis infections."

Some herdsmen also use ketosis sticks to check for ketosis and a stethoscope to listen to the rumen, he added.

These practices can help ensure a cows rumen is working well. Then her intakes will increase quickly, and she should reach peak yield without delay.

"If she is not using her body reserves this also reduces the risk of metabolic disease and that is going to pay you well. It can also reduce vet costs," he said. &#42