New York Dairy Sees Significant Health Improvements After Adopting Fully Acidified Transition Cow Diet
Faced with milk fever, Marks Farms in Lowville, N.Y., recently decided to try modifying its transition cow diet to improve herd health and productivity.
The 4,400 milking cow operation collaborated with Prince Agri Products, Inc., which began by conducting blood sampling among the dairy’s prefresh cows. Results showed that, in addition to milk fever, a majority of prepartum cows had subclinical hypocalcemia – slightly below normal blood calcium, which can still have a negative impact on cow health and milk production.
Ken Brubaker, Prince Dairy Technical Specialist, helped the dairy conduct a trial using a fully acidified, negative dietary cation-anion difference (DCAD) diet containing Animate, a unique, patented nutritional specialty product from Prince.
Animate has been proven to help reduce the risk of low blood calcium in postpartum dairy cows and, because it’s highly palatable, can help attain a negative DCAD diet while also maintaining high dry matter intake. Previously, Marks Farms was feeding another commercially manufactured anionic salt product and because of feed intake concerns could only feed a partially acidified diet.
“We were pleasantly surprised by the rapid turnaround we experienced,” said Marks Farms partner, Lindsey Peck, D.V.M. “In addition to reduced milk fever, we’re seeing very little ketosis, fewer cases of metritis and retained placentas, and our production numbers are going up. Our treatment rates and health evaluations have dropped significantly, probably by two-thirds.”
Dr. Peck’s husband and dairy partner, Michael Tabolt, oversees fresh cows as head herdsman. “Overall cow health now compared to before we started feeding Animate is the difference between night and day, and it seems to keep improving,” he said. They also expect the improved DCAD diet will result in less use of supplemental calcium.
Marks Farms now feeds Animate to all pre-fresh cows, as part of a fully acidified diet, beginning about three weeks before calving. In addition, the dairy continues to rely on testing protocols and other management practices that promote transition cow health.
Prince’s Brubaker said, “Blood sampling, whether routine or periodic, is a management practice that all dairies should use. Marks Farms is a well-run dairy and viewed as a leader in the dairy industry in New York state. Their participation in the Animate trial program reflects their commitment to be at the forefront of fresh cow care.”