Feeding Fresh Cows

Feeding Fresh Cows

Over the past month I’ve come across a couple of news articles regarding the feeding of transition/fresh cows and the better source of protein & carbohydrates for both, that I thought were worth sharing & considering.


The first was a Canadian article regarding the feeding of rape (canola) meal, compared to soya bean meal, to early lactation cows and could this benefit them. The article starts by saying that most feed studies are done on mid-lactation cows and so this has previously been difficult to quantify until recently when a couple of studies have been done on fresh cows.  It also mentions that most nutritionists believe that rape meal is inferior to soyabean meal at calving because it is more fibrous, lower in crude protein and not as energy dense as soyabean meal, which post calving when appetites are suppressed means that diets need to be as nutrient dense as possible.

However, both the studies from the US showed that feeding straight rape meal compared to either soya meal or rape/soya meal showed increased yields and improved feed efficiency but not at the expense body condition score and also saw some improvements in fertility. The second was an Australian article regarding the feeding of maize grain to early lactation cows and could this benefit them.  Again, it emphasises that during the transition period/early lactation cows experience suppressed feed intake, as well as increased insulin resistance and lipolysis (increased use of body fats), along with challenges to the immune system and increased nutrient demand (particularly glucose).

A poor transition/calving period can result in both short & long term health effects, increased treatment costs, decreased production and decreased reproduction results, along with increased culling rates.

In the experiment one group of cows were fed wheat grain (high rumen fermentability) and the other maize grain (moderate ruminal fermentability).  In the experiment the cows fed the maize diet had increased intakes (and therefore increased production) of nearly 10% by 23 DIM (24kg DMI rather than 22kg DMI).  At day 24 all cows were switched to the same base diet and the increased production levels continued in what had been the maize based diet cows.  The conclusion of the researchers was that while both metabolic & physical signals control the intakes of dairy cows (just like you & me) the metabolic signals dominate the fresh period.

The more fermentable starch types (i.e. wheat) fed to the cows the signals supressed DMI (made them feel fuller quicker?) whereas the more moderate fermentability starch types (i.e. maize) sent slower signals to the cow so didn’t suppress DMI. 

Therefore, for the cow to feel less full, so allow her to maximise her DMI feed maize grain, rather than the traditional wheat grain.

Both interesting articles that have only been published late March, and both looking at maximising the intakes & production of fresh cows by switching from our traditionally fed feeds to others that are equally readily available.

If you wish to discuss or review your transition/fresh cow diets call FAR registered Dairy Nutritionist & CowSignals® Master Andrew Jones on 07717 44288 or email andrew@dblbuyinggroup.co.uk