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‘Implementing the necessary management protocols is essential’

For farmers looking to build sustainable businesses, assessing every aspect of herd management to identify where improvements could result in higher yields, better welfare and fertility and greater longevity is key.

Huw McConochie
Huw McConochie
‘Implementing the necessary management protocols is essential’

For farmers looking to build sustainable businesses, assessing every aspect of herd management to identify where improvements could result in higher yields, better welfare and fertility and greater longevity is key.

Huw McConochie, research nutritionist with Zinpro, believes a holistic approach is required to tackle common cow health problems but correct nutrition, including trace elements, is an important part of the picture.

He says: “When looking to tackle performance issues in dairy herds, it is clear cows are often kept in challenging environments.

Correcting these problems can require significant investment in the longer term, which is not always possible.

“Conversely, addressing operational elements of the system and nutritional deficiencies can be acted upon immediately and can play a significant role in improving lifetime performance.”

 

Dr McConochie says more progressive farmers appreciate the importance of proactive cow management, especially during the transition phase.

“Transition diseases are a consequence of late lactation nutrition and management during the dry period which predisposes the cow to an increased risk of a poor transition into lactation.

 

Excessive inflammation in transition dairy cows is the link between inadequate cow management and transition diseases but by the time it is evident, it is usually too late.

 

“Controlled inflammation is a normal part of transition as cows overcome the rigours of parturition and settle into milk production.

“In contrast, uncontrolled inflammation is associated with over-conditioning, excessive body weight loss, infections such as mastitis and metritis, and damage to tissues associated with conditions such as acidosis and lameness.

Oxidative stress is also a major challenge for transition dairy cows.

“Feeding a performance trace mineral supplement, such as Zinpro’s Availa-4, provides a combination of trace elements which are vital for immunity, reproduction, skin and hoof integrity, growth and muscle development, milk production, rumen health and energy metabolism,” he says.

Organic zinc, manganese and copper are the main constituent elements in the product and together with selenium they are essential components of the anti-oxidant defence system.

Dr McConochie says: “Although demand for trace minerals declines during lactation, it is worth remembering the foetus will be growing.

In the final stages of pregnancy, the dam will be expending additional resources to support calf development, so it is vital to continue supplementing during this period.

“Similarly, at peak lactation, the cow’s level of metabolism is so high, it is vital to have an adequate supply of the elements she needs because otherwise she may begin to deplete her reserves which will have an adverse impact.”


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Lameness

 

Lameness is a common issue which leads to poor reproductive performance, reduced milk yield and premature removal from the herd.

Recognising the cause of the problem through regular locomotion scoring and careful and frequent assessment of lesions is the first stage to addressing the problem.

Dr McConochie says: “Implementing the necessary management protocols, including routine foot trimming combined with effective foot bathing for the entire herd, including dry cows is essential.

“Using the correct formulation for the footbath solution and ensuring cows pass through it regularly are management strategies which can be easily implemented.

It is vital to monitor the prevalence of digital dermatitis in heifers and dry cows as they can be an important reservoir for the disease within a herd.

“Zinpro has developed tools to help assess the effectiveness of the foot health regime.

Its ‘FirstStep’ app forms part of a troubleshooting service which helps identify the cause of the lameness and then take the necessary steps to confront it,” Dr McConochie says.

He acknowledges lameness is usually the result of more than one management issue, such as walking surfaces and stall design, but says nutrition is often a major factor.

Feeding the correct levels of minerals is a vital part of tackling poor locomotion because zinc and copper are both necessary for good horn formation.

Zinpro products contain a unique metal amino acid complex making the minerals stable throughout the digestive tract,” he says.

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