If you have dairy cows, and you take care that they live inside an enclosure with a cattle fence, and ensure everything else for them to live happily, you know how important that is for them to produce a lot of milk. But there are other things you can do, from installing bulk cattle feeders to offering proper nutrition that can help with this aspect.
Increasing early milk production
When cows give birth to a calf, they give milk and continue to do so until the calf matures (for around one year). In cow farms, the cows are artificially inseminated three months after giving birth, so that they have a rhythm of one calf per year, to sustain proper milk production.
To kickstart the milk production in your cows, after they give birth, there are a few things you can do. For starters, increase dry matter intake to reach about 32 pounds daily. At the same time, inspect the hoof health in your cows, and make sure to prevent overfeeding and weight gain.
Pay attention to low calcium levels
Lactating cows may suffer during the first weeks from low calcium levels as they start feeding their young. Some tests may be needed to establish if your cows suffer from such a condition, but some symptoms are easy to see with the naked eye. One of them is a reduced milk yield. Also, these cows will tend to eat less than usual.
Make sure that your cows have proper nutrition and plenty of water
The needs of calving cows are increased right after birth, which is why this is a critical period. You need to ensure up to 15 gallons of water for each cow. Their food should include up to 10 pounds of alfalfa and hay, as well.
All the feed banks must be clean so that your cows don’t fall ill, or avoid eating as much as they need during this time.
Your calving cows need proper comfort
Overcrowding can make cows feel stressed, and, when that happens, they won’t produce as much milk as they should. Use a fresh cow group to keep the calving cows in proper conditions. Each calving cow should have around 36 inches of bunk space of its disposal. Also, the occupancy rate should not be higher than 85%, to avoid overcrowding.
Cows don’t like being too hot, so ensure that the environment is ideal for them. They also like dry places and overall comfort. If you manage to provide these conditions, you will notice that their milk production will increase.
Offer your cows good fiber sources in their diet
During the first five days after calves are born, cows should have alfalfa and hay as part of their daily diet since they require fiber. Mixed rations are highly recommended, as they don’t let the cows eat selectively, something that can cause the pH in their stomachs to rise.
This condition is known as ‘sour stomach’ or rumen acidosis. This is one of the conditions calving cows can suffer from right after giving birth, and you must pay proper attention to their diet so that enough fiber is included.
Keep an eye out on cows with known issues
If some of your cows have suffered before from mastitis or milk fever, you should know that they might develop the same conditions again. What you can do to prevent them from suffering the same diseases is to move them to the dry group as early as possible. They might give birth a bit earlier, one week or up to ten days, but that will decrease their chance of falling ill.
Your calving cows shouldn’t get fat
While it is essential that your cows don’t go hungry or thirsty after they give birth and start nursing their young, it is equally important that you don’t allow them to get too fat. Farmers use a system called BCS – body condition score – that allows them to establish how much weight the cows gain after calving.
This score should not be higher than 4. Some weight gain is normal, and the ideal BCS is 3.0-3.25. However, you must pay extra attention to cows that tend to overeat as they can become overweight.
Some common troubles with overweight cows are that they have a higher risk of having a fatty liver or developing ketosis. Also, breeding them again can prove difficult.
Certain feed additives can work to improve milk production
If you consider supplementing the feed for your cows with some additives, you should learn a bit about them. For instance, ionophores are suitable for increasing glucose availability. Giving your cows rumen-protected choline will help protect their liver health.
Extra amino acids are helpful, too, because they allow you to feed your cows correctly, without giving them too much protein. Healthy fat additives are a good option because they provide cows with extra energy. Also, yeast cultures allow proper rumen fermentation.
Don’t let mold and other pathogenic agents get into your cows’ feed
Your cows’ nutrition should be optimal, which means that you will need to eliminate any factors that might affect the quality of your cows’ feed. Avoid moldy hay, and eliminate insufficiently fermented feeds, as well as wild yeast. These can affect the ease of digestion and also determine cows to eat less.
Boost your cows’ immune system
Another thing you can do to increase healthy milk production in your cows is to boost their immune system. You can do this by including more antioxidants in their nutrition, such as vitamin E and selenium.
You will have to do this to reduce the oxidative stress in your cows. This can happen for several reasons. Any injury, poor air quality, and increased fat mobilization can lead to an increase in this type of stress.
When there is too much oxidative stress, the immune system is affected, and that leaves the gate open for diseases to appear. Since they have a negative impact on milk production, you should pay extra attention to the overall conditions and equally to nutrition.