Diet Change Improves Transition Cow Health on Tennessee Dairy

Sweetwater Valley Farm in Philadelphia, Tennessee, was experiencing challenges with transition cow health. The 1,250-cow dairy had tried individual straight salts to try to maintain normal blood calcium concentrations, but found those products difficult to use.

The dairy’s nutritionist recommended that Animate, a unique, patented nutritional specialty product from Prince Agri Products, Inc., be added to the close-up cow diet. In addition, urine pH monitoring was started to ensure cows were fully acidified (between a pH range of 5.5 and 6.0), and a blood sampling protocol, recommended by Prince Dairy Technical Specialist Dr. Jennifer Lanier, was conducted to monitor the changes in blood calcium concentrations.

The results were improved startup milk and transition cow health. “We were able to eliminate a good portion of our transition cow health issues right off the bat,” says dairy owner John Harrison. “Our cows are milking very well now, and we’re not seeing the transition problems we had before.”

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.

A negative DCAD diet is recommended to be fed for a minimum of 21 days prior to calving. However, due to space limitations in the close-up pen, Sweetwater Valley Farm could not feed a fully acidified diet to its close-up cows for that duration. Instead, a single-group, short dry period was implemented for all dry cows, and this diet was fully acidified with Animate for 45 days.

This practice of shortening the dry period and fully acidifying the diet is supported by recent research conducted at the University of Georgia, which was presented at the 2014 American Dairy Science Association annual meeting. That research showed that a negative DCAD diet can be fed safely and profitably for at least 42 days, with no reduction in fresh cow health or performance compared to feeding a traditional 21-day prepartum negative DCAD diet.

As part of its nutritional strategy, Sweetwater Valley Farm also feeds OmniGen-AF® for the entire dry period and to its high-producing cows. OmniGen-AF is a nutritional specialty product from Prince that is recommended to be fed to all dry, pre-fresh and lactating cows on a daily basis to help support normal immune function in the face of expected and unexpected stress events.

Continual use of OmniGen-AF helps support a healthy immune system, which may help result in fewer health events, a lower somatic cell count and fewer cases of mastitis and metritis. This, in turn, may lead to higher milk production and fewer unplanned culls. “From the results I am seeing, it seems to be having a pretty positive effect,” says Harrison.

Sweetwater Valley Farm experienced healthier, more productive transition cows after switching to Animate for their negative DCAD diet. Shown above is dairy owner John Harrison.

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