Pre-calver minerals: Prepare your pre-calving cows and heifers for calving success

FA PRE-CALVER

The 2021 calving season is fast approaching, with cattle being brought indoors for the winter months, now is the right time to be planning ahead for the 2021 calving season to ensure a smooth and successful transition.

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Feeding cows to meet their energy and protein requirements with considerations to achieving target body condition scores (see table 1 below) throughout the production cycle will directly influence calving success. Difficult calvings, poor calf vigour, metabolic issues and poor colostrum quality can all be linked with over/under feeding and incorrect BCS during late pregnancy, it is therefore crucial to ensure BCS targets are met and diets are formulated correctly.

SPRING CALVING COWS (BCS)

Calving

2.5 – 3

Service

2.5

Housing

3 – 3.5

 

The dry period is important to prepare the udder and to allow mammary cell development and repair, ready for the next lactation. Furthermore, correct management during the dry period can reduce the number of metabolic and reproductive disorders after calving. Pre-calving nutrition planning should ideally start four months before calving actually begins, this is to ensure that cows are gradually transitioned to the target BCS and to avoid sudden swings in BCS which will have a detrimental effect on the cow and calf. Major changes in the diet should be avoided in the last trimester of pregnancy as this will affect calf vigour, colostrum quality and colostrum quantity, especially if protein and energy is undersupplied.

As well as ensuring cows have sufficient energy and protein for maintenance and pregnancy functions, it is important that cows have optimal vitamin and mineral supply. There are 15 minerals essential for life in ruminant species with a few being required in increased amounts leading up to calving. Adequate mineral supply in late lactation can improve the quality of colostrum produced by the cow. Similarly, minerals are important for the developing foetus which increases in weight by 75-80% during the last three months of pregnancy. Unlike antibodies, trace elements can pass through the placenta from the cow to the calf so mineral supplementation in late pregnancy will directly benefit the unborn calf.

 

THE FUNCTIONS OF KEY MINERALS IN LATE PREGNANCY DIETS:

CALCIUM: pre calving cows should be kept on a low calcium diet to reduce the risk of milk fever.

MAGNESIUM: plays an important role in uterine tone and muscle contractions meaning that adequate magnesium supply is essential for a smooth and timely calving.

SELENIUM/VITAMIN E: play an important role in supporting immune function within the cow and are natural antioxidants.

ZINC: plays an essential role in immune function as well as being involved in enzyme function.

IODINE: important for foetal growth and development and energy regulation in the cow.

COPPER: important for fertility, immune function and enzyme function.

 

FA PRECALVER (our free access powdered mineral) is available in 25kg pack sizes. This low calcium, high magnesium supplement will support the cow’s mineral requirements during the dry period. Providing a full specification of vitamins and minerals, with high levels of vitamin E and multiple copper sources to support the cow through the calving period.

A number of factors will influence this year’s spring calving success, with nutrition playing a key role in benefitting not just the cow, but the calf too. Given the importance of improving calf output, particularly from a financial perspective, ensuring cows and heifers receive a balanced diet in the run up to calving will not only influence the herd’s success this year, but also in the many years that lie ahead.

22nd February 2021