Minimizing stress during a cow’s transition period by managing the environment surrounding her is always top-of-mind.
Beyond the external environment, it’s just as critical to understand how to support a fresh cow internally, through proper nutrition.
Understanding the specific nutritional needs of fresh cows gives us the opportunity to fully unlock potential milk production.
Fresh Cow Nutritional Needs
When formulating fresh cow rations, here are four insights into how you should be examining the diet differently:
- Instead of crude protein, focus on the numbers that help manage the protein fractions in the ration. Understand the rate and extent of protein digestibility of what is available as this helps to predict how much metabolizable protein will be supplied to the fresh cow, and therefore available for milk and milk protein production.
- Rumen function research has increased the understanding of neutral detergent fiber digestibility (NDFd) and indigestible NDF or uNDF. Forage samples should no longer be evaluated on just how much acid detergent fiber (ADF) and NDF they contain. Make sure you know the NDF digestibility at different time points and uNDF in order to more precisely evaluate the fiber’s value in the transition cow’s diet and understand the potential energy contribution of that feedstuff.
- Starch as a percent of dry matter has been an important number in forage analysis for years. Instead of only looking at starch content, understand how degradable that starch is and how quickly it will ferment in the rumen. This is especially important for fresh cows because of their low dry matter intake. They need a certain amount of starch and fiber to manage glucose demand and stay healthy, so it is important to include more quickly degradable starches.
- Cows need to have the right balance of the different types of fatty acids in their diet to manage energy balance and milk fat production. Research has shown that Omega 3 fatty acids fed to fresh cows can increase milk production.
By having a better understanding of the nutrition they need, we can get fresh cows off to a good start and optimize cow health and performance.