Posted By: Bibby - Farm Vet

Navigating the Transition: Insights from the XL Vets Road Show on Dairy Cow Health

In November some of the veterinary team, as well as a group of farmers attended The XL Vets Transition Cow Road Show. Stephen LeBlanc from Guelph University in Canada was keynote speaker. 

We all know how important it is to ensure a successful transition period for our dairy cows' health and performance. Did you know that over 40% of cows will have at least one health event in the first 60 days postpartum? Conditions range from calving problems, metritis, endometritis, mastitis, and ketosis to name but a few. We know that the higher the incidence of these conditions occurring on your farm, the more significant an effect it will have on reproduction. 
Stephen discussed in more detail the effects on subsequent fertility associated with Purulent Vaginal Discharge (PVD) & Endometritis, each affects 15-20% of cows, as well as ketosis. Did you know that a cow with subclinical ketosis in early lactation is associated with a 4-8 x increased risk of LDA. She is also at 1.8 times increased odds of culling < 60 DIM. Cows that have raised ketones in week 1 or 2 after calving have decreased pregnancy rates. Stephen discussed a study measuring ketones which showed cows with no ketosis have a conception rate at 1st AI of 42%, cows with ketosis in 1 week a CR of 36%, this went down to 28% for cows with ketosis for 2 weeks. 
Our transition cows are certainly faced with significant challenges around calving. What can we do to ensure the most successful transition? We want to optimize metabolic health and increase immune function. This means we need to manage cows to maintain feed intake. 
Do you know exactly what your Transition cows DMI is….? Have you done everything you can to maximize this? 

Transition cow checklist: 
Make sure your cows have good access to feed, dry cows need 90cm/cow. Transition cows should be fed at least daily, do you know how much extra DMI you could achieve if you fed your transition cows twice a day. 
Ensuring good access to water is also vital, you should have at least 10cm per cow. Having 2 water troughs reduces competition in the transition cow environment. 
Making sure cows have a clean, comfortable lying space. 
Aim for cows to be in BCS 3.0-3.25 at calving. 
Feed a specific transition cow ration that contains sufficient energy, Vit E and is formulated to reduce the risk of milk fever around calving. 

After calving monitoring cows for ketosis, PVD and Endometritis will help to ensure prompt treatment to help minimize the negative effects on fertility. The Transition Cow Road Show opened my eyes to the metabolic pressure our dairy cows are under, Stephen was informative and very inspiring, I am certainly interested in discussing with you all the details of your own transition cow management protocols. Remember to let me know your exact DMI for your transition cows next time you see me! 

- Farm Vet Bibby Thomas

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