Stage 1. Dry Cow
The dry cow period not only sets the cow up for a trouble free lactation, but can make a big difference in getting the calf off to the best possible start.Almost 50% of dairy cow metabolic issues occur within the first 3 weeks of calving, mostly as a direct result of the nutrition of the dry cow. The quality of the colostrums produced is determined during this phase.In the Management Matters section we have highlighted 4 major elements to managing the dry cow. Each of these phases can have a big effect on your herds’ performance and your farms profitability.
Stage 2. Birth
The first 2 hours of a heifer calf’s life can have a big impact on her lifetime production and profitability.Colostrum management and feeding is critical to the success of the heifer rearing programme. Low quality colostrum will leave it much more difficult to manage calves and leave them much more exposed to diseases.Colostrum quality is measured by its IgG (immunoglobulin) content, the higher the better.
Stage 3. Birth to Weaning
This phase is the busiest of all during the life of the heifer. If the weaning phase passes with few problems, then the rest of the rearing phases should go very smoothly. In order to get the calf set up to achieve the targeted growth rates we need to achieve the following 2 objectives:
1. Build immune defence
2. Start rumen development
The biggest challenges to the calf during this phase are scours and respiratory infections. As we've previously seen the calf will not have an active immune system for the first 2 to 3 weeks of life. This leaves the calf prone to such infections. The heifer rearing programme is specifically designed to build the calf immune system from day 1 and help protect the calf until it has a much better developed immune system.
Stage 4. Weaning to Breeding
The key to the weaning to breeding phase is to achieve a steady growth rate. There is strong research evidence to show that heifers need to be gaining weight at a rate of 800g per day.By underachieving these targets it will take longer to get the heifer to her target weight for calving.
Overachieving of these targets will risk the heifer getting too fat at this young age.Over fat pre-pubertal heifers will deposit fat on the developing udder tissue and this will have a negative impact on lifetime production levels, as well as being a waste of valuable inputs.
Stage 5. In-Calf
The heifer is now in calf so it is important to push her on to achieve her target of calving in at 90% of her mature weight. It is important to balance her meal intakes with the quality of grass and forage available to her.Constant monitoring is the key here;Over the 9 month pregnancy it would be very easy for the heifers' weight gain to go unchecked. It is essential that weights are checked every few months so that the heifer can be brought in on target.Forage quality have a big bearing on growth rates and meal feeding requirements. If you don't measure it, you can't manage it. Through Pastureade® and Forageade® your local Gain® business manager can help you here.