Managing Dairy Cattle
Dairy cattle have special dietary needs when compared to those of beef cattle. It’s been established that during the first 21 days of lactation a cow can experience a large number of physical changes and subsequent stress.
This is because cows must first withstand the stress of calving, then adjust to a ration change to help compensate for the increased demands of milk production.
In most cases, the cows that experience the greatest amount of difficulty are those that have a reduced feed intake. This is in response to a drop in their ruminal pH as a result of the stress of calving.
By correcting the pH and thereby encouraging normal feed intake, the proper pH can be maintained. This optimizes chances of having a healthy cow that is able to better maintain body condition and produce higher-quality milk.
Dairy cows need proper nutrition and management so they can continue to produce optimum yields of high-quality milk. To sustain a profitable dairy farm, it’s essential to build and sustain the immunity of the herd, prevent common metabolic diseases and protect cattle from various stressors such as extremely hot or cold weather.
This guide offers various techniques and tips that will help ranchers reduce losses that result from stress and infection in dairy cows.
How to Reduce Dairy Cattle Stress
The dairy cattle herd’s stress increases due to heat in the summer months, causing reduced milk production and a reduced conception rate. With effective management practices, it’s possible to minimize stress in dairy cows and improve their productivity.
Heat and humidity are the primary causes of stress in dairy cattle. Once the temperature rises above 80°F, the feed intake of the cows drops, which also has a negative impact on milk production. When temperatures rise to 100°F and the humidity increases to 20 percent, the signs of stress become evident. Once the humidity rises to 80 percent at this temperature, the consequences can be fatal.
Typical signs of a heat-stressed dairy cow include:
- Reduced feed intake
- Standing while other cows are lying down
- Rapid respiration rate
- Greater production of saliva
- Increased water intake
- Seeking out shade
The best ways to reduce heat stress include:
- Supplementing the Diet: Most early lactation cows reduce their food consumption during hot weather, which changes the elements of the rumen and causes ruminal acidosis. A reduced feed intake will also decrease the production of volatile fatty acids, leading to a diminished amount of energy and lower fat content in the milk. To correct this problem, feed a diet consisting of a high-quality forage augmented with an acid-neutralizing supplement such as CattlActive®. CattlActive® has carefully selected ingredients, including corn oil, soybean oil and other vegetable fatty acids that can provide energy to boost lactation and help produce high-quality milk.
- Providing Increased Ventilation: Due to the low rate of sweat production in cattle, they need increased airflow to reduce their inner temperature. Create rapid air movement with large fans so the animals don’t have to battle with stagnant or stale air when they’re in a confined area.
- Cooling the Cows: It’s essential to have foggers or misters in place to keep cattle cool. Evaporation combined with rapid air movement reduces heat stress in the cows.
How to Prevent Acidosis in Dairy Cattle
In dairy cattle, there’s a high risk of sub-acute ruminal acidosis due to the large number of concentrates and grains they eat.
Acidosis occurs when the pH falls from between 6.5 to 7 to below 5.8, causing the rumen to stop moving. The loss of motility causes a reduced appetite and decreased milk production.
The altered acidity in the rumen also affects the flora in the rumen. Then, acid-producing bacteria take over, creating greater amounts of acid and increasing the severity of the acidosis. If this excess acid continues to move through the intestinal wall, it can lead to morbidity and death.
Common symptoms of sub-acute acidosis include:
- Increased pulse and respiratory rate
- Frequent scours or diarrhea
- Reduced feed consumption
- Poor body condition
To prevent ruminal acidosis, it’s necessary to utilize a combination of improved nutrition and good management practices. Try the following tips:
- Reduce the volume of easily fermented grains or carbohydrate consumed in each meal
- Add more fiber to the diet
- Monitor portion sizes and ensure the amount of feed consumed is neither excessive nor inadequate
- Add long fiber particles to the feed to boost saliva production
- Supplement the diet with a prebiotic like CattlActive® to increase the development of healthy rumen microbes
Steps to Improve a Dairy Cow’s Immune System
Dairy cows are susceptible to a higher incidence and severity of metabolic and infectious diseases. The immune system serves as a defense mechanism against pathogens that the cow may come into contact with. In the healthy cow, the immune system will prevent these pathogens from causing various diseases.
However, the immune system can be weakened due to the increased stress caused by calving, lactation, and heat. Improving your herd’s immune system will help prevent infections, reduce the cost of treatment and boost milk production and fertility.
To increase your dairy cattle immunity, take the following steps:
- Supplement nutrition during gestation and calving
- Provide natural supplements that have prebiotic effects, like CattlActive®
- Reduce the adverse effects of extreme temperatures through good management practices
- Perform regular checks on your cattle with your vet’s help
What to Do If Dairy Cattle Have Scours
Diarrhea or scours is more common in calves, but it also occurs in dairy cows. Several diseases, including ruminal acidosis and a large population of parasitic bacteria including E. coli and Salmonella, can cause scours.
Here are some vital steps for preventing and treating scours:
- Vaccinate: Vaccinate pregnant cows 3 to 12 weeks before calving.
- Keep Pens Clean: Ensure your pens are as clean as possible. Use a strong disinfectant and let fresh air ventilate each pen.
- Isolate Cows: Place cows with scours in an isolation unit, so the sick animals don’t spread the infection to the healthy ones.
- Rehydrate: While the cows are in isolation, provide a constant supply of clean, cool water. If necessary, administer an intravenous drip, so it stops losing fluid.
- Examine: If you have an outbreak of scours, your priority should be to find out why it occurred. Collect and analyze a manure sample to identify what caused it and how you can treat and prevent future outbreaks.
Boost the Productivity of Your Dairy Cows With CattlActive®
CattlActive® and CattlActive®RA have been designed to boost the productivity of your dairy cows, improve their immune systems and help you increase the profit of your dairy farm. Continue browsing our site to get more details about CattlActive®.