OPTIMISING THE HEALTH AND PRODUCTIVITY OF DAIRY COWS BY CONTROLLING THEIR ENERGY LEVEL
It is essential for dairy farmers to understand the importance of energy for dairy cows and the impact of non-optimal energy levels during the life cycle of the animal.
The role of energy and the impact of stressful periods
The energy level of dairy cows directly influences their health status. Changes during the animal’s lifetime play a major role, often resulting in a decrease in feed intake and thus in energy supply and resistance. Changes are perceived as periods of stress, and they can be more or less numerous depending on the farming practices. One of the most stressful periods for the cow is the transition period from three weeks before calving to three weeks after calving. The transition period includes changes in feed, calving, changes in groups and the start of lactation, many stress moments that are not without consequences for the animal.
Energy & Transition Period
During the dry period, the metabolism of the cow is lower, the cow is laying down more and less active, this results in a lower demand of energy. The amount of dry matter intake gradually decreases, mainly due to theincreasing space which the calf is taking up. As calving approaches, the appetite increases slowly, which causes a gap between energy requirements and intake. Therefore, the start of lactation is synonymous with an energy dip which often appears 14 days after calving. To find the energy needed for optimal functioning including the metabolism, the milk production and muscle contraction at calving, the cow will start to use her body reserves.
The impact of energy deficiency
If the energy intake does not quickly compensate this deficit, the cow will mobilise her own reserves too much. Fatty acids will therefore be produced excessively, causing an overload in the liver and thus an incomplete breakdown of the fat. Liver damage will become more and more severe as the lactation progresses.
These energy deficiencies are often under-diagnosed, even though they represent a loss of income for the farmer, because energy deficiencies lead to a reduced appetite and lower production. In addition, the cow will be more exposed to other health problems, as the immune system is a major consumer of energy and will therefore be affected if the energy level is not sufficient. And the consequences do not stop there, a large energy deficiency will also have an impact during the next insemination, as the success rate will be lower. The oocytes that develop during an energy deficiency are of poor quality, which is always a problem at the time of the next insemination. In total, the average loss has been estimated at €250. In order to limit the impact of a prolonged energy deficiency, several signs can be detected by the farmer:
- Slow animal;
- Poorly filled rumen;
- Breath and milk with an acetone smell;
- Reversal of the fat % / protein % ratio (which in general should be between 1.33 and 1.5);
- Cow in poor health at the beginning of lactation.
Case study: Anticipating energy deficiencies
Sometimes there can be a group of cows more at risk in the herd, cows that are more sensitive to nutritional deficiencies for example. It is therefore important to pay more attention to these previously identified animals and ideally isolate them in order to limit problems. More generally, energy deficiency can be controlled by taking a preventative approach, for example, by administering an AHV Booster Tablet 1 week after calving. The product will compensate the upcoming energy deficiency by activating the metabolism of the cow (liver and rumen). It will help the liver to convert fat into energy more efficiently.
If you would like more information on the importance of energy and the solutions we provide, please contact your advisor.