Installing an automatic milking system led Wiltshire College Lackham to focus on further streamlining labour and enhancing herd health by refreshing their transition cow management.
“We’ve always known how important getting the transition period right is for fertility, milk yields and cow health, as well as for calf health and immunity,” explains Richard, livestock manager on Lackham Campus farm at the Wiltshire College and University Centre.
“However, we’ve also noticed that good transition management can save us both time and labour. Making sure cows have a smooth transition period helps to minimise the risk of secondary illnesses, which is great for cow health but also means we don’t have to spend lots of time focusing on treating one or two problematic cows.”
The 200-cow herd supplies Cadburys and produces on average 10,500 litres per cow a year at 4% butterfat and 3.2% protein. Installation of an automatic milking system has driven a change from autumn block calving to all year round calving.
As a college farm, students are given the opportunity to get involved in the day-to-day running of the farm. This gives the chance to have a practical, hands-on experience on a commercial dairy farm to complement their studies.
“For us it’s really important we make the most of the labour resources we have, so that we have the time to support the students as much as possible,” adds Richard. “However, we also want to be a high performance herd whilst also focusing on cow health and welfare."
“Installing the robots got us thinking about other ways we could be smarter with the labour we have on farm. We found we were spending more time than we’d like on cows with milk fever and displaced abomasums, so we spoke to ForFarmers Youngstock Specialist Ann Coombes and Nutritionist Richard Greasley. They suggested we reform our transition cow ration to ensure we are best supporting our cows during this period.”
The aim is for cows to be dried off at around BCS 2.5 or 3. Prior to drying off BCS is monitored frequently by the college’s students, and concentrate levels will be adjusted to ensure cows enter the dry period in good body condition. Cows are dried off at grass, before being brought in for the close-up transition period.
“Bringing the cows inside for the close-up transition period really helps us to keep an eye on cow condition,” explains Richard. “We pay particularly close attention to their udders, and making sure that they are well prepared for calving. Getting the cows well set up during this period really helps to ensure they hit the ground running once they’ve calved and also sets them up for the next lactation. Following calving we then move the cows back onto the milking cow ration, building the concentrates up in the parlour so they are on a rising plane of nutrition to support milk yields.”
“We worked with Wiltshire College Lackham to refine their transition cow nutrition to ensure that it was fully supporting cow health post-partum,” explains nutritionist Richard Greasley. “We suggested adding TRANSLAC Advance to the close-up transition cow ration of grass silage, maize silage, straw and soya. Once cows get to three weeks before calving, they are fed TRANSLAC Advance at 3 kg/head/day which is split into two feeds and added straight on top of the ration.
“TRANSLAC Advance not only helps to support milk yields post calving but will supply key transition nutrients and contains a unique premix called prepare. Part of this unique premix is its ability to calcium capture. The mineral complex in the premix captures and binds the free calcium which reduces the risk of milk fever and associated calving problems such as retained cleansings and displaced abomasum’s.”
TRANSLAC Advance is a transition cow diet which is specially formulated to improve milk production, enhance health, and support calf performance. Through a combination of starch and digestible fibre, a high protein content, as well as essential vitamins and minerals, TRANSLAC Advance supports the needs of dry cows.
“We started feeding TRANSLAC Advance in October 2020 and so far we’ve been pleased with the results,” says Richard Ingram. “The cows have faced plenty of disruption this year with lots of changes to the farm system, but we’ve managed to maintain both milk yields and fertility levels."
“Since feeding TRANSLAC Advance we’ve only had one case each of milk fever and displaced abomasum. At this point last year we’d had nine cases of milk fever and five displaced abomasums, so this is a noticeable reduction when compared to the last couple of years. Tightening up our transition cow ration has also helped us with the continual drive towards enhanced herd health and welfare, while maintaining high performance.
“Having fewer cases of milk fever and displaced abomasum also saves us labour, it gives us the chance to focus our time elsewhere and the opportunity to spend more time with the students. This time and labour saving helps us to justify the additional cost of using TRANSLAC Advance, and we believe that it will help us achieve our long-term goals for the herd.”
For more information on our TRANSLAC Advance or for advice on transition management please speak to your local ForFarmers Account Manager or send us an online enquiry:
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