Benefits of Shortening the Dry Period

Joining us on DairyLine today is Ken Zanzalari, Ph.D., who serves as Animate Product Manager for Prince Agri Products, here to discuss a recent trend on dairy farms to have a shorter, single-group dry cow feeding program instead of the traditional two-group cow program.

Here’s a transcript of today’s radio segment:
DairyLine: Ken, what are the benefits for shortening the dry period?
Ken Zanzalari: Bill, the main benefit is keeping cows in production about two weeks longer. If you look at the economics of today’s milk price, I would say $24 milk, an estimated 60 lbs of milk and the cow ready to be dried off, that’s an extra $216 per lactation. If you look at it for a 20,000 lb herd that’s about another 5% increase in revenue, so a fairly significant number. Two other benefits that come to mind would be that managing one group of dry cows is just a simpler program than managing a two group dry cow program. The other important thing is fewer cow moves, so we’re not moving cows from one group to another. We’ve reduced that, which has been shown to reduce the social stress and subsequent loss of dry matter intake in those animals, which is extremely important.
DairyLine: So how do shorter dry periods affect feeding a negative DCAD diet to help reduce the risk of low blood calcium in transition cows?
Ken Zanzalari: Regardless of whether you implement a one or two group dry cow program, the risk and the incident level of clinical and sub-clinical milk fever are the same. It’s been documented through several well- run studies that feeding a negative DCAD diet pre-partum as part of a one group dry cow program would be similar to implementing it in a two group dry cow program. So, regardless of a one or two group dry cow program, you feed and manage those cows the same with a negative-DCAD program. So, our recommendation at Prince is full acidification with high dietary calcium.
DairyLine: What can you tell us about adding Prince’s nutritional specialty product, Animate, to close-up diets to help achieve a negative DCAD diet?
Ken Zanzalari: Animate is our patented DCAD technology. Probably the biggest attribute when feeding Animate is its palatability and Animate does that probably better than any other way of feeding a negative DCAD program. A second attribute is that Animate is a complete anionic mineral, meaning that it delivers the other critical mineral nutrients necessary for properly feeding these cows. So, whether you’re feeding a negative DCAD program in a one or two group dry cow program, the use of Animate in a negative DCAD diet will help deliver significant economic payback to the dairymen.
DairyLine: And finally, how can producers determine if the single dry cow program strategy is right for their operation?
Ken Zanzalari: You know, whether a dairyman implements a one or two group dry cow program, I want to make the point that cows do not need a 60-day dry cow period. I still see a lot of dry cows being dried for 50, 55, and over 60 days. Reducing days dry between 40 and 45 is the starting point. I would just encourage them to have a discussion with their nutritional consultant and veterinarian first. That’s their starting point. Because during periods of low calving, that may be time to switch from a two group to a one group. So, implementing this as a program that you will go forward with, day in and day out, may be the optimal decision. But certainly, there are other times because of the production cycle of a farm where implementing the one group dry cow program may be more appropriate. It all starts with a discussion with their farm advisors – the herdsman, the folks working with the cows on the farm and certainly their nutritional and veterinary consultant.
DairyLine: Thanks, Ken. That’s Ken Zanzalari, Animate product manager with Prince Agri Products.

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