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Virginia Cooperative Extension - Knowledge for the CommonWealth

Managing the transition cow is one of the most important aspects of management on a dairy farm today

Dairy Pipeline: February 2005

Tina Horn
Extension Area Dairy Agent
Augusta County
(540) 245-5750

It is a critical factor in both the profitability and productivity in your dairy herd. A proper transition cow management program can improve health of the cow and calf, improve reproductive efficiency, milk production, increase dry matter intake, improve energy balance, decrease metabolic disorders, and increase your bottom line. Research shows that a sound transition cow program can increase milk production by as much as 2000 pounds in the upcoming lactation. Some points to consider when developing a program are dry period length, feeding behaviors, hormonal and metabolic shifts, rumen changes and immune system depression. Remember to devote adequate resources; labor, facilities, feed/forage, and management. A little extra attention paid to the cow, the ration, and the details coupled with better forage and more bunk space greatly increase the profitability of your operation. The quality and quantity of feed a transition cow eats is extremely important. Provide high quality feeds and forages and allow plenty of bunk space to maximize intake. Feed your better forages and high quality, highly palatable grains to transition and early lactation cows. Keep track of forage dry matter and forage quality through testing to insure that rations stay balanced. Provide additional bunk space for these cows, especially if you are mixing mature cows and first lactation heifers. Offer plenty of clean water that is easily accessible and easy to find. Avoid overcrowding in transition groups and optimize cow comfort. Transition cows should be kept in a clean, dry, well ventilated environment. Cows should be easy to see and be near working facilities if needed. Facilities should also be free of smooth, slippery floors.

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