6 September 1996

Udder in shape – cow in shape

CANADIAN milk producer Guy Charbonneau is convinced that protecting udder shape helps cows last longer. And his recipe for longer herdlife is careful management of feeding pre- and post-calving.

That pegs the replacement rate of his 100-cow herd at the 345ha (850-acre) Ferme Vachale, Sainte-Anne-des-Plaines, Quebec, at 25%. That is despite its high rolling yield of 10,181 litres at 3.94% fat and 3.36% protein. The cows achieve a £1500 margin over all feed, vet and breeding costs.

Dry cows are fed half the milkers ration and hay from two weeks before calving. And to avoid overfeeding in early lactation this pre-calving diet is also continued for two days after calving.

"Then cows go on to the low yielding ration, for this puts less pressure on the cow, especially the first calvers," he says.

Fresh calvers stay on this ration for between a week and a month depending on how much the udder swells. Only once the udder has softened do cows go on to a full total mixed ration. That includes lucerne haylage, grass hay, maize silage and high moisture maize corn, all home-grown. Bought concentrates include soyabean meal, wheat distillers grains and the by-pass protein source Micro-soya.

Feeding cows carefully before and after calving helps keep udders in good shape, says Guy Charbonneau.