One size certainly does not fit all when it comes to dry cows, and certain opportunities may allow more cost-effective means to manage dry cows.
First what is the cow type? Yield? Can grazing paddocks be shut up early? And what is the mineral content of soils and forages available (Potassium & Calcium in particular)?
Whether it is a 5,000 or 12,000litre dairy cow, the dry period is still a crucial opportunity to prepare the cow for the next lactation. The energy density and protein content are similar however the MJ demand, minerals and vitamin levels can vary significantly. One thing is certain the higher the output of the cow after calving the greater the amount of inputs required to prepare the cow before.
Dry Cow Basics
• 56-60-day period (longer for those reducing yield due to Coronavirus Measures)
• Crash diet from milking ration with higher yields
• Dry cow targets (Far & Close) see diagram 1.
Below diagrams (2 & 3) illustrate standing hay examples or not in the case of diagram 3 which contains too much energy, low fibre and excess nitrates. Diagram 2 is much closer to the standing hay principles, although slightly light on protein. It is hard to achieve all the dry cow principles exactly through this simplistic approach, but it does prove cost effective in the feed costs and reduced labour/machinery costs in implementing this approach.
The mineral analysis below related to both grass samples above and you can see the background mineral status varies between fields/soils/grass. Potassium is particularly important to suppress and challenging within grazing long hay especially on dairy paddock fields. Potassium is key for grass growth but interferes with dry cow absorption.
When we compare standing hay (ration 1 & 2) to an alternative TMR (ration 3 & 4) for both far and close dry cows there are significant feed cost differences and that’s before you add the existing machinery costs (fuel, depreciation, etc), bedding costs (housed) and labour costs to run a mixer wagon, compared with moving a strip fence and feeding some dry cow nuts.
Using the figures provided we can see it costs £34.59/cow in feed costs for strip grazing hay and £90.12/cow for TMR feeding dry cows. That’s x260% difference in feed cost alone! Arguably you could reduce costs by implementing ration 1 and 4 but cows can be grazed effectively all the way through to calving whilst following dry cow principles.
For further advice on Dry Cow Management, contact Wesley at firstname.lastname@example.org or your local FCG Office.