The Government taskforce report on winter grazing says farmers are not solely to blame for all the problems associated with this practice.
How you manage the nutrition at the different stages of this period will need to change constantly as the requirements change, but every stage of this period is equally important in order to maintain a healthy productive animal into the next lactation.
Correct transitioning should see us preparing the animal for the stresses leading up to the birth and then supplying adequate nutrition to support the heavy demands of early lactation. A failure at any stage will have serious consequences and will increase potential losses and negatively impact production during the following lactation.
Things that should be done:
1. Plan feed demands well in advance, ensuring feed levels will be adequate and of the right quality for each part of the season: the dry period, the transition, and the early lactation periods. If feeding silages, make sure that these are lactic acid fermented silages. With correct fermentation good quality silage will not contain butyric acid. The correct silage inoculant can be very beneficial to ensure a correct fermentation and a better quality final product.
2. Make sure animals are well conditioned without being over conditioned at the end of lactation and during the dry period.
3. Plan to feed increased levels of energy leading up to birth, and then plan to rapidly increase energy levels once lactation is underway, while all the time taking precautions against acidosis.
4. Carefully consider the correct balance of minerals, vitamins and amino acids required -- those being delivered through the feeds naturally, as well as supplementation of additional quantities into the feed. These will be very important co-factors in efficiently utilising the feed.
Certain key amino acids and vitamins, while not taking the place of adequate feeding, are essential to the production of energy and the utilisation of dietary protein.
In the scientific world these are called methyl donors; they are essential at the cell level in energy production as well as the utilisation of protein.
Methyl donors of most importance to ruminants are choline, methionine, betaine, vitamin B12, and vitamin B2.
• Chris Balemi is managing director of Agvance Nutrition. www.agvance.co.nz
As a farmer it is important to carefully plan the feed requirements during the lead up to transition and the early lactation period.