How to achieve the best transition period for you and your cows
The transition period is 60 days prior to calving, through 30 days post calving. In these 90 days, cows will undergo major changes and challenges as they dry-off, calve, and re-enter the milking herd. During this time, it is imperative that cows receive top-notch care and strong protocols are in place for the transition period. To provide the best care to transition cows, we must understand how the transition period affects production, reproduction, and overall health.
There are many factors that affect the transition period. In order to set cows up for success in their next lactation, cows must be properly cared for in their previous lactation. Following dry-off protocols to avoiding dry-period challenges start the transition period on the right path. Many environmental factors also contribute to the success of the transition period.
Environmental factors during transition period
- Temperature – During the transition period, cows require comfortable environments to prepare for and recover from calving. For autumn calving herds providing shade is important. The impact of warm temperatures on a pregnant cow will not only affect the cow, but the calf as well.
- Hygiene – Especially in spring, paddocks can be muddy and wet, an ideal ground for unfavourable bacteria to grow.
Impact on immune system
There are several challenges that can take over a cow’s immune system during the transition period. Assisted calving, twins, or a tough calving process can lead to increased risk of transition cow challenges. No matter what the challenge is that threatens a cow’s well-being, early detection is key to her recovery. With early detection, the cow can recover quickly, using more energy to increase milk production and less energy to deal with (health) challenges.
- Udder health challenges can occur at any point in the transition period. If a cow is not properly dried off, she may experience udder health challenges as a dry cow, or right away in her lactation.
- Metabolic challenges stem from low levels of calcium in the bloodstream and can lead to more serious health challenges. The liver can get overwhelmed if a cow is experiencing metabolic challenges and calcium and phosphorus deficiencies can negatively impact the release of the placenta and/or other uterine health challenges. A correct ratio of calcium and phosphorus is necessary to overcome and avoid future challenges of metabolic challenges and expel the placenta. If a cow shows significant changes in her body condition score (up or down) during the dry period, she is at greater risk of metabolic challenges after calving.
- Release of the placenta – The placenta should expel within 24 hours after calving.
- Uterine health challenges – Often following a retained placenta, bacterial challenges can occur in the uterus.
- Negative energy balance – When a cow faces a negative energy balance, she begins to start burning fat to produce glucose. A negative energy balance can cause a drop in milk production, changes in weight, and a lack of energy. Without this necessary energy, cows cannot get over their (health) challenges on their own. A cow stops eating and ruminating prior to, during and for a period post calving, while she consumes a lot of extra energy. As a result, most if not all cows will go into negative energy balance and need support!
Protocol around calving
To overcome the transition cow challenges outlined above, these simple standard protocols can be followed:
- If possible, prior to calving – increase energy in the diet or provide supplemental oral energy with the AHV Booster range and provide supplemental calcium with the AHV Milk Start Bolus.
- Day of calving – provide uterine -, supplemental mineral – and energy – and recovery support with the AHV Opti Bolus, AHV Milk Start Paste and AHV Aspi.
- 10-14 days post calving – supply supplemental energy to avoid a negative energy balance with the AHV Booster range.
- Use tools to identify udder health challenges early on. Our AHV Udder Health Program can be used from 4-7 days post calving.
Metabolically during the transition period, the cow’s body is operating one way, but immediately after calving, the body begins to operate in a different way. After calving, the demand for minerals and energy increases. In response to this change, challenges occur to try to recover.
The AHV Milk Start Paste and Milk Start Bolus kick start the metabolism of the cow to enable stronger mineral and energy mobilization. They also contain Phosphorus, Calcium, and Vitamin D, which are among the most important vitamins and minerals needed around calving and throughout the transition period. High levels of phosphorus can help cows in overcoming metabolic- and liver challenges. Calcium is instrumental in expelling the placenta, avoiding the two previously mentioned challenges. Providing some form of these vitamins and minerals to cows will assist them in getting past calving challenges.
Tissue recovery is very demanding of energy. Exacerbated from this tissue recovery, high producing cows need more minerals and energy than low producing cows, and first calf heifers facing the challenge of calving for the first time also need great amounts of energy to recover. The AHV Booster range provides the animal with energy to meet these requirements.
To start cows on a path to success and quick recovery at calving, support them with AHV Aspi in the process of recovery and to improve tissue blood flow on the day they calve. AHV Aspi also supports the cow’s immune system. Additionally, it is important to remember that cows may decrease eating and rumination around calving. The walls of the rumen will be more susceptible to higher pH values because of an empty stomach. The AHV Booster range contains sodium bicarbonate to provide buffering and pH stabilization.
Strong challenges are emphasized during the transition period because we can more easily measure the challenge that we can see, however it is difficult to understand the impact of them. If you fail to avoid transition cow challenges, the protocols that are used to deal with them are fairly standard. However, it is important to remember that due to increasing resistance, efficacy may be decreased, and those standard protocols may need to be reconsidered. With AHV, there is no withdrawal period and no separation of animals is needed.
When transition cow health is optimized, cows are left with a better opportunity to be productive and successful in their lactation. If transition cow health is optimized year after year, cows will be more profitable and stay in the herd longer.
AHV Transition & Uterine Health Program
The AHV Transition Program focuses on the period before and after calving and ensures sufficient energy and minerals and stimulates dry matter intake. It also supports the recently calved cow and allow her to restart the reproductive cycle in the best way possible. The AHV Udder Health program can support the cow’s udder throughout lactation, starting 4-7 days post calving.
Get in touch!
Would you like to be visited by an AHV Territory Manager to discuss the health on your dairy farm together? Our AHV Territory Managers will be happy to visit you to assess the health of your cows together and come up with appropriate cow-specific advice.
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