Tips for a smooth start of lactation
Calving for a heifer can be a stressful period. Producers can follow these tips to help smooth the transition from calving to the start of the lactation:
- Stress should be prevented and mixing calving groups avoided from at least a few days pre calving. Mixing groups beyond this time can increase the risk of foetal dystocia.
- A Body Condition Score (BCS) of 3,25 is recommended. Heifers that are under or overweight have a higher chance or having calving problems.
- The calving pen should be a clean and comfortable area. This helps prevent infections, both in the heifer and new born calf.
- Immediately after calving, heifers are thirsty and require extra energy. They need warm water with Refresh to support the heifer.
- Colostrum should be available to the new-born calf as soon as possible. Colostrum quality should be measured with a refractometer and a colostrum enhancer or colostrum from other cows added if the quality is below the requirement.
Within the lactation herd:
- A separate group of close-up heifers and a separate heifer lactation group would be ideal. This is not always possible but changing groupings within a short period should be avoided.
- Another option could be to have the heifers within the dairy herd from 21 months of age. In this way, they get used to the older cows in the group. If this system is used, the correct ration must be available for the heifers. Ideally a dry cow concentrate is fed via the automatic feeder.
- Although heifers have a very low risk of developing milk fever or other metabolic diseases, it is still important to monitor them the first weeks after calving and take appropriate actions when needed.