POST-CALF PROFILES – THUMBS-UP
BLOOD profiling cows four to six weeks post-calving gives one West Sussex producer time to correct any nutritional imbalances before the critical service period.
Richard Thorntons 110-cow, 6300-litre herd at Heathtolt Farm, Maplehurst, Horsham calves from mid-August to mid-December. He has blood profiled a sample of the cows using the Dalgety/Oldacres Herd Health and Productivity Service each August for the past few years.
Cows are sampled when the first few have calved. This gives time before housing to correct any nutritional deficiencies identified, before the service period starts in mid-October.
Mr Thornton believes blood profiling is well worth the expense because it brings potential savings in AI costs and helps maintain the calving interval at 374 days ensuring cows calve within the right period.
At the same time as blood samples are taken by his vet, his feed adviser attends to condition score the cows. About 17 are sampled, a third of which are freshly calved, a third in mid to late lactation and the remainder dry. Within each lactation stage, cows of different ages are chosen, he adds.
Results from lab
A week later, when the results are received from the lab in Edinburgh, Mr Thornton sits down with his vet and feed adviser to discuss the results for energy balance, protein minerals and trace elements for the three groups.
"We then decide whether any action is needed, such as feeding more silage or concentrate, or whether to bring the fresh calvers in onto silage to reduce reliance on autumn grass," says Mr Thornton.
"Last year we wanted to increase milk from forage and had cut back on concentrate use. The cows were milking well but were not eating enough silage and were losing condition. The blood profiles of one or two high yielders showed that they were short of energy. We brought them in, and offered more silage and blood tests a month later showed that the problem had been rectified."
Mr Thornton says mineral deficiencies have never been the cause of infertility or disease on the farm, but that blood profiles provide a useful check on their levels. *