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  Optimizing the High-Straw Dry Cow Diet Particle size, moisture content and bunk management matter!
 Hannah Woodhouse, BSc Biomedical Sciences, MSc Candidate Epidemiology
Hannah comes from a dairy farm in Ontario and is currently conducting research on free fatty acids in milk at the University of Guelph. She is passionate about milk quality and is continuing this research as a PhD student. [email protected]
increase in moisture content of high-straw dry cow diets, containing short-chopped straw, promotes higher and more consistent DMI, particularly in the immediate pre-fresh period. Cows on a wetter high-straw diet are also more likely to avoid elevated BHB levels and excessive drops in rumen pH after calving.
Another strategy to increase moisture, help bind ration particles together, and decrease sorting is to add a molasses-based liquid feed to dry cow rations. Further, the high- sugar content of molasses also helps aid in fibre digestion and ration palatability, which increases DMI.
3. Proper bunk management
We cannot expect dry cows to maintain consistent and high DMI if they do not have proper bunk management. Feed needs to be fresh and available, meaning that it should be delivered at least daily and pushed up regularly. Stocking density is also important
Presentation by: Dr. Trevor J. Devries at the Western Canadian Dairy Seminar
Transition cow diseases continue to be one of the top challenges within the dairy industry. With incidence rates up to 40%, these health concerns have major implications on cow performance, future health and longevity in the herd. Proper management in the dry cow period is an important prevention strategy.
Why does the dry period matter?
Management factors in the dry cow can affect health and performance in the next lactation. The goal during this phase is to have cows rest and maintain body condition. The key to this is fine-tuning the ration to prevent excessive weight gain or loss, while promoting rumen fill and health.
The high-straw (“Goldilocks”) diet has become a popular dry cow feeding strategy within the industry that achieves these goals. This diet is high in fibre, but low in energy, which promotes rumen fill, while controlling energy consumption. The issue, however, is that these diets are often bulky and low in moisture. These unfavourable physical characteristics can result in decreased dry mater intake (DMI) and increased sorting if not properly managed. Reducing particle size, increasing moisture content and facilitating proper bunk management are three ways to ensure that
the high-straw diet achieves its purpose.
1. Reducing particle size
When it comes to the chop length of straw in these diets, shorter is better. Shorter straw chop length (2-3 cm) reduces sorting compared to longer straw chop length (10 cm). Avoiding sorting promotes more consistent intake of all ration ingredients, to ensure that the dietary energy consumed is the same as the energy formulation for the ration.
By shortening the straw chop length, DMI also increases, particularly in the week leading up to calving (see graph). Reducing the drop in DMI as a cow enters lactation is important for preventing negative energy balance and body fat mobilization. Elevated beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB) levels are indicative of subclinical ketosis in fresh cows and can be prevented by feeding a shorter straw chop length diet in the dry period. The incidence of ruminal acidosis (substantial drop on reticulorumen pH) in early lactation can also be reduced by feeding shorter straw length dry cow diets.
2. Increasing moisture content
Even with a short straw chop length, dry cow rations are still prone to being sorted because they are low in moisture and less physically dense. A further strategy to avoid sortingandmaketherationmoreanalogous to the lactating ration is to add water. An
to consider, as close-up dry cows need the most amount of feed bunk space. The hard work that goes into formulating a dry cow ration that is shorter in straw chop length and higher in moisture content does not matter if it is not accessible and consumed.
Short straw chop length, high moisture content and proper bunk management are important factors to consider in high- straw dry cow diets. Keeping the dry cow diet physically similar to the lactating ration can prevent sorting, promote high and consistent DMI, reduce elevated BHB levels and avoid drops in reticulorumen pH. These, in turn, will help to smooth the transition into lactation and optimize herd health and production.
   We have the equipment to help you raise
 healthy, robust calves!
Feeding pasteurized milk with a Westwaard Calf Milk Pasteurizer will save you money compared to using powdered milk replacer, while providing healthier, faster growing calves. From 20 to 800 gallon capacity, we have a calf milk pasteurizer to accommodate your dairy that can also pasteurize colostrum for those first feedings.
In addition to preparing milk the right way to feed calves, it is important to sanitize milk bottles and nipples to promote healthy intestinal bacteria. We also build efficient washing solutions tailored to your needs.
Contact us for a dealer near you!
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