Taking control of the critical transition period

Taking control of the critical transition period

Ask any dairy farmer about the biggest challenges they face in looking after their herd. Most – if not all – will mention the difficulties of preventing health issues during the transition period.

Prelacto dry cow plan

The Prelacto dry cow plan is a concept developed to ensure an optimum start to lactation for Dairy Cows. It’s a concept based both on nutrition and management aspects important to ensuring a good transition period and an optimum start. An optimum start entails easy calving, optimum colostrum power, healthy cows with no treatments needed, increasing milk production while minimizing BCS fall, and in the end improving fertility and profit.

It consists of four phases starting in the dry-off group right through to the early fresh group. This concept is an integral part of the De Heus way as it links in with the SynchroFOS system by reducing rumen environment fluctuations, improving adaption, and increasing rumen health and animal health.

Prelacto dry cow plan phases

Late lactation phase

The first important phase in dry cow management is the late lactation groups. It is of vital importance that cows dry in the correct BCS. Cows with too high BCS have a reduced dry matter intake.  A reduced dry matter intake both before and after calving reduces adaption to higher concentrate diets and causes higher mobilisation of body fat reserves which can lead to a higher incidence of ketosis and fatty liver disease. Severely under-conditioned cows struggle to keep up with the requirements of the new lactation and is one step behind for the rest of the lactation. The goal in the dry period is to keep the condition constant, thus it is imperative to focus on the condition during late lactation. Feeding a bulky but fresh and good quality ration will keep rumen capacity and will improve dry matter intake later in the dry period. Additionally, dry off is also an ideal time to work hoofs or other treatments, as it would give enough time to ensure cows recover fully.

Far-off phase

The second phase of the dry cow period is the far-off period. It’s an important period as the mammary tissue needs time to regenerate. The main goal in this period is to maintain the good body condition achieved in the previous phase preventing sharp body condition losses at all costs or making sure cows do not get over-conditioned in this phase. Keeping dry matter intake high is an advantage and doing so with a bulkier ration would insure good rumen capacity. The Far-off period is the only phase where anything can be placed back into the cow without it immediately being drained, therefore feeding additional minerals would be beneficial.

Close-up phase

The third phase is commonly referred to as the close-up or steam-up phase and gets the most attention of the dry cow phases on any farm. Key features of this phase are the reduced dry matter intake of cows due to physiological changes as cows near calving and physical changes due to the increased size of the calf. The main goals in this group are proper adaption towards lactation rations as well as prevention of any possible metabolic disorders. It is vital to maintain dry matter intake in this phase at all costs. Prevent over or under-conditioned cows, cows with these body conditions are prone to eat less and thus leads to cows that adapt poorly to higher concentrate rations causing low efficient nutrient uptakes and mobilization of body fat in early lactation. It is normal for high-producing dairy cows to mobilize body fat to a degree; however, a cow should not lose more than a body condition point in 2-3 weeks even if she was overweight. Setting aside nutritional factors and focusing on management practices the following is important: to have fresh feed available at all times, to manage conditions of cows in far off and close up periods, to ensure optimum dry matter intake in close up and early lactation periods, to reduce any stress and to keep cows active.

Early fresh phase

The final phase of the dry cow period is the early fresh group which is the cows that are 21 days and less in milk. The main objective of this phase is to maximize dry matter intake by easing the cows into lactation through adaption to the full lactation ration. Benefits of having a fresh group include a less pronounced negative energy balance, cows with possible problems can be picked up quicker, lower strength cows will not get dominated at the feeding troughs, and better adaption with a group-specific ration. The early fresh cows should not be more than 21 days.

A lot is said and done from a nutritional point of view when it comes to transitioning cow management and this is 100% needed, however equal if not more weight should be placed behind practical management of transition cows. Looking holistically at the transition period and doing the basics right will improve animal health and margins in dairy production systems. Can you afford not to?

FAQ Prelacto

Frequently asked questions

A well-applied transition-management strategy opens the door to prevention rather than cure. By intervening in the cow’s health before illnesses take root, you’ll save valuable time and money.

Learn more about disease prevention

Cows require a large amount of calcium at the start of the lactation phase. One way to increase calcium levels around calving is to reduce the dietary cation anion balance (DCAD) during the close-up phase. Our proven DCAD strategy makes it easier for cows to transition to the next lactation.

Learn more about increasing blood calcium levels

Most farmers monitor the most common dietary minerals including calcium, potassium and magnesium. But don’t underestimate the role phosphorous plays in a cow’s nutrition: reducing phosphorous during the dry period is an important aspect of preventing subclinical diseases, especially hypocalcemia around calving.

Learn more about the role of phosphorous

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