How to achieve the best transition period for you and your cows
By Andre Rigo – Technical Service Lead AHV USA
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. 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 avoid 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 control – During the transition period, cows require comfortable environments to prepare for and recover from calving. During warmer months, fans and sprinklers are encouraged to keep cows cool. The impact of warm temperatures on a pregnant cow will not only affect the cow, but the calf as well.
- Stocking Density – In lactation groups past 30 days in milk, the stocking density can or may be higher than in a transition cow group. It is imperative when populating a transition pen to consider the amount of bunk space, stalls, or space to lay down, and accessibility to a water trough. Bunk space is crucial, as transition cow rations provide the cows with vitamins, minerals, and energy that they need to transition smoothly.
- Bedding – When it comes to bedding, the type of bedding is far less important than providing clean, dry, and soft bedding for a cow to calve on.
- Pens – Throughout the transition period, cows experience pen changes. During these moves, it is important to keep cows as calm as possible and keep the pen changes minimal. If possible, keeping your transition cow pens close to one another to minimize environmental stress factors during transition.
Impact on immune system
There are several challenges that can take over a cow’s immune system during the transition period. Hard pulls, twins, or a difficult calving process can also 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 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.
- Release of the placenta – The placenta should be expelled 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 challenges on their own.
Protocol around calving
To overcome the transition cow challenges outlined above, these simple standard protocols can be followed:
- Day of calving – provide supplemental calcium and recovery support with the AHV Metri Bolus, AHV Milk Start Paste and AHV Aspi.
- 5 days post calving – supply supplemental energy to aid transition and provide a boost to the immune system with the AHV Booster bolus.
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 contain Phosphorus, Calcium, and Vitamin D, which are among the most important vitamins and minerals needed around calving and throughout the transition period. Prominent 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.
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. There is research coming out now that most transition issues can be traced back to excessive inflammation and the cow’s inability to control that in the transition period. AHV Aspi is a wonderful way to help modulate the immune system. AHV Aspi supports the cow’s immune system to drive normal cow function during recovery periods.
Tissue recovery is very demanding of energy. This tissue recovery is compounded in high producing cows and first calf heifers facing the challenge of calving for the first time. The AHV Booster provides the animal with energy to meet these requirements, immune function, along with their production expectations.
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 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. This program connects excellently with the AHV Uterine Health Program to fully support the recently calved cow and allow her to restart the reproductive cycle in the best way possible. If you are interested in starting AHV Solutions at your dairy, please contact your local AHV Farm Advisor to assist in the implementation of AHV Solutions today.
Proactive support around calving and start-up
Below we show the protocol we recommend around calving. By clicking on the picture you will get more information about the product. However, we always recommend using the products in a program for optimal results.
Milk Start Bolus & Paste
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