21 March 1997

Skinny sucklers a health risk

SUCKLERS which are thin after over-wintering face an increased risk of staggers, lower fertility and reduced milk yield.

Alan Mathieson, Perth-based Signet consultant, says that a higher proportion of sucklers have been allowed to lose condition over winter, and that cows are working harder.

"Feed accounts for 70% of costs in a suckler system. Some producers have reduced feed rates to cut costs over winter, and there are a lot of leaner cows about this spring."

Producers should be aware of an increased staggers risk where thin, lactating cows are turned out to graze, warns Signet consultant Ian Ross.

"There is a trade-off between winter feeding and cow fertility. For particularly thin autumn calved cows it may be worth considering weaning early because it is vital to ensure good condition at bulling."

Where spring calvers are thin, Mr Ross warns against increasing feed rates now. "Its dangerous to increase rates now – youll grow the calf rather than put condition on the cow. Continue to feed cows on the same ration, then turn-out after calving."