Critical nutrition for fresh cows: energy and hydration

Written By:  Daniel Kohls, P.A.S.

The transition period immediately after calving, commonly referred to as the “fresh period”, often presents the challenges of metabolic diseases related to negative energy balance, namely ketosis, in early lactation dairy cows.  The fresh period also is a time that the dairy cow must replenish lost fluids and heal or repair tissue associated with the calving event.  This process also requires extra energy, fluids and minerals in ample quantities for the cow to maintain and perform up to optimal health status.  Ultimately, high production of peak milk levels and fast return to estrus activity for timely rebreeding are the goals for profitable production in commercial dairies.

The fresh period continues to be one of the most studied and complex areas of dairy nutrition research.  As complicated as this can seem sometimes, most of the environmental and nutritional management aspects that impact fresh cow success (or failure) center on the cow's access to quality feed and water.  In other words, energy intake and hydration of the body are critical to fresh cow success.  Sounds simple, doesn’t it?

We continue to open new doors of understanding about ketosis prevention.  As much as we understand that good dry period management, avoiding overcrowding, adequate bunk space and days on a correctly balanced fresh cow ration should ensure fresh cow success, ketosis and fatty liver disease still are the number one metabolic disease challenge on today’s dairy farm.  Recently our dairy team explored the opportunity to positively impact the fresh period, especially during heavy calving periods through a field demonstration project involving several herds in MN this past winter and spring.

Using the proven science of how our heat stress product Hydro-Lac® positively preserves and optimizes glucose capture and hydration, we demonstrated that cows fed Hydro-Lac during the first 10-30 days of lactation had an average FreshME advantage of 895 lbs. as well as a numerically lower number of fresh cows with a 1st test day butterfat test over 5.0%, a threshold indicator of ketosis risk.  This field study prompted many of our consultants to implement Hydro-Lac into their clients’ fresh cow rations every day of the year, regardless of the temperature.   This simple strategy has proven especially helpful when producers are faced with heavy calving schedules that tax the pen size and bunk space of transition pens.

Consider Hydro-Lac as part of your dairy’s fresh period ration strategy as a simple aid to reduce risk of ketosis and return to positive energy balance faster, and capitalize on a better fresh start.  It’s proven science that it's not just for heat stress.  You can request a copy of the field demonstration white paper by contacting your Form-A-Feed representative.