Approach to Managing Dry Cows Changing

The traditional approach for managing dry cow programs is changing, according to Dr. Glenn Holub, Dairy Technology Manager for Phibro Animal Health Corporation.

Dr. Holub: That’s right. Most dairy operations have traditionally followed a 60-day dry cow program with two different rations for far-off and close-up periods. But now we’re seeing some producers changing to shorter, one-group dry cow programs which are 40 to 42 days long and a negative DCAD diet is the only diet fed. DCAD meaning dietary cation-anion difference.

DairyLine: Glenn, what benefits are producers experiencing with these one-group programs?

Dr. Holub: There are a number of advantages:

First is more milk, since cows are in production for an additional 18 to 20 days, this translates to improved cash flow and profitability.

Improved health is another major consideration. Cows that calve early will benefit by being on a negative DCAD diet the proper length of time, and that helps to reduce the risk of clinical and subclinical hypocalcemia and may result in fewer transition cow diseases.

There’s also less labor. Reducing the number of pen moves saves management and labor resources, as does spending less time mixing separate rations for two dry cow groups.

Fewer pen moves also produces less social stress, because cows spend less time re-establishing the social order, leaving more time for eating and laying down. More feed intake during the dry period may also result in higher fresh cow milk production and fewer transition cow diseases.

Finally, a one-group program offers a simplified ration, instead of both a far-off and close-up total mixed ration. For the producer, this could mean fuller mixer loads, more uniform mixing, and a more consistent feed supply in the bunk. There could also be a reduction in the number of commodities in feedstuffs the dairy has to inventory.

DairyLine: How does a negative DCAD diet serve to increase the benefits of a shortened dry period?

Dr. Holub: A fully acidified DCAD diet has been proven to help reduce the risk of transition cow disorders, such as subclinical hypocalcemia, metritis, mastitis and ketosis. A 2014 University of Georgia study showed no adverse effects of feeding a negative DCAD diet for as long as six weeks prior to calving in terms of milk production or blood calcium levels.

DairyLine: Glenn, what role does Phibro’s nutritional specialty product, Animate®, play in transition health?

Glenn Holub: Animate is an excellent source of chlorine and sulfur, the anions that lower DCAD. When fed as part of a properly balanced pre-fresh diet for at least 21 days before calving, Animate can help reduce the incidence of both clinical and subclinical hypocalcemia.

And, because Animate is very palatable, it can be used to fully acidify the pre-fresh diet without fear of lowering dry matter intake. These fully-acidified, pre-fresh diets with Animate help to reduce the incidence of subclinical hypocalcemia and its negative effects on fresh cow health, reproduction and production.

DairyLine: That’s Dr. Glenn Holub, Dairy Technology Manager for Phibro Animal Health.

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