Dr. R. Selvakkumar
Ph.D., Associate Professor
Department of Livestock Production Management
Veterinary College and Research Institute Tamil Nadu Veterinary and Animal Sciences University

Care and management of dairy animals throughout its production cycle is essential for a Successful dairy enterprise and a small lapse in this will ends in unforeseen sequences. “Management” is a single word which consists of all the activities carried out in a farm.  So it consists of feeding, breeding, health care, safe guard the animal from adverse climatic conditions, record maintenance and etc.. In the production cycle of a cow, transition period is a critical period and this will have a direct effect on its lactation and also having a long lasting carry-over effects including culling. The transition period is the period from three weeks pre to three weeks post calving. This period is very critical period and multifocal management is necessary to achieve the maximum production performance of the animal.   Irrespective of all factors like season, fodder availability and individual production performance, the transition cow management is remaining same. 

Transition period prepares the dairy cow for next lactation cycle. By giving the proper management and nutrition, we can make the animal get ready for a successful and profitable lactation.  Ignorance or failure in transition cow care will leads to negative outcomes like peri-parturient problems Retained Placenta, ketosis, milk fever or displaced abomasums) as well as it creates a entry point for the problems like fertility, lameness and mastitis etc..  

A successful feeding system and a suitable management strategy bring the animal in to a safety side and make the animal competent to meet the transition period requirements.  3 weeks prior and 3 weeks after calving is very critical period and proper management of cow during this period is must for successful lactation.

Care and management of Close-up Dry Cows (3 weeks prior to calving)

Management strategy

  • As per the breeding records, close-up dry cows (3 weeks prior to calving) should be separated and maintained in a comfortable environment to satisfy its requirements. Frequent change of shed will results in social hierarchy issues and this should be avoided.
  • Body condition score (BCS) also considered during transition period and too high or too low BCS will need an animal nutritionist opinion. Optimum body condition score (BCS) of a transition cow is 3.0-3.25.
  • The housing barn should be clean. Adverse climatic condition can be overcome by providing fans and sprinklers. Non slippery and bedded floor is ideal. Unnecessary frequent handling of animal should be avoided.

Nutritional management

  • During this period, the mammary glands will involutes (dries up), the calf is increasing in size, and body weight will be increased. So, the ration should meet out all the nutrient requirement of the animal and previous productive performance of an animal also considered while formulating the transition cow ration.
  • To meet out the requirements of last trimester fetal growth, 12 to 13 percent crude protein, 50-60 grams of calcium and 25 to 30 grams of phosphorous  should be provided.
  • Feed required level of trace minerals and vitamins.
  • Provide sufficient feeding space per animal to overcome low feed intake of subordinate animals.

Care and management of Fresh cow (3 weeks post calving)

Management strategy

  • Housing and feed space requirement will be the same as close-up dry cows.
    • Proper monitoring and detection of metabolic and infectious diseases is essential   and start the corrective measure as quickly as possible for the affected animals.

Feeding management

  • Start of lactation is a crucial period and we must ensure positive metabolic status to get optimal productivity from the animal.
  • Weight loss should also be monitored and heavy loss in early lactation will have effects on reproduction and also cause metabolic disorders
  • Feeding should be gradually changed immediately after calving. Abrupt change will affect the ruminal microflora and leads to metabolic disorders.

Health issues related to transition period

Reluctance to follow the above points will favor the occurrence of health problems during transition period. The problems may be arising from the following category.

  • Related to energy metabolism (Ketosis, Acidosis)
  • Related to  mineral metabolism (Milk fever, udder edema)
  • Related to immune system (Metritis, Mastitis, retained placenta)

The above three are interrelated and development of one condition will favor the development of another condition. For example decreased muscular tonicity during hypocalcemia will increase the risk of retained placenta.

Following nutritional and managemental strategy may helpful to overcome the health related issues during transition period:

  • Prevent the decline of Dry matter intake (DMI) during prepartum and quick increase of DMI during post partum.
  • Protein content of feed is essential and it play vital role in mammary gland development, development of the fetus, immune status of the animal. Low protein ration will results in low start up milk, low peak yield and poor immune condition.
  • Provide sufficient minerals and vitamins based upon the production level of the individual animal.   
  • Affected animal should be separate from the herd and individual care should be given for those animals to prevent further aggravation of the condition.