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Feeding cows in the perinatal period

Feeding cows in the perinatal period

The periparturient period in cows is crucial. Not without reason, this time is called the critical moment in dairy cattle farming. Mistakes made during this period can contribute to deteriorating animal conditions and, consequently, the profitability of production. The nutrition of cows during the periparturient period is the topic of our article today.

Surely, the periparturient period includes the 60 days before and 30 days after calving. Due to significant changes occurring in the body, this is a challenging time for cows. They are particularly prone to metabolic disorders and abrupt changes related to the functioning of the hormonal system. Proper husbandry practices have an impact on animal health and production profitability. In addition to providing animals with adequate environmental conditions, nutrition is among the most crucial factors during the periparturient period.

Dry period in cows 

The dry period is a period of rest during which the cow’s body prepares for calving and lactation. It is important not only for future milk production but also for the developing fetus. The appropriate time for drying off cows is approximately 8 weeks before the expected calving date. When transitioning cows to the dry period, we must consider adjusting their nutrition. The nutrients provided during this time must meet the cows’ needs, support proper fetal and placental development, and prepare the cow for the upcoming lactation. The periparturient period can be divided into:

Proper drying off – the first 5 weeks 

Preparatory period – 3 weeks before calving 

Calving 30 days after calving 

Reduced appetite 

During the proper drying off period, dry and succulent bulk feeds should fully cover the cow’s nutritional requirements. Suitable feeds during this time include silage, pasture greens, grain straw, and meadow hay.

In the 3-4 weeks before the due date, certain physiological processes intensify, associated with the increasing fetal mass. It is also the time when preparations for calving and lactation begin. All of this contributes to a rapid increase in the cow’s energy requirements while simultaneously decreasing appetite. The decrease in feed intake can be estimated at 30-35%. Nutrient deficiencies harm the cow’s metabolism, as it starts to utilize body fat reserves to meet the increasing energy demands. Consequently, various metabolic disorders occur, negatively affecting the overall productivity of the cow, including reproductive indicators. To prevent this, the energy concentration in the feed ratio should be increased by incorporating more concentrated feeds. This also aims to prepare the cow’s digestive system for safely utilizing large amounts of concentrated feed after lactation begins. These feeds promote proper fetal development and the synthesis of an appropriate quantity and quality of colostrum. Three weeks before the planned calving date, it is recommended to use feed additives containing bitter anionic salts to regulate the calcium-magnesium balance, as well as essential vitamins and mineral components. It is highly beneficial to add live yeast cultures (Dolcell) to the feed ratio. Yeast supplementation in the diet increases feed intake and influences better adaptation of rumen microorganisms to the feed rations during the lactation period.

Concentrated feed should be gradually introduced into the feed ration. From the third week before expected calving, it is recommended to increase both the amount of starchy concentrated feed in the fed dose and the proportion of corn silage, which is the main volumetric feed in the nutrition of dairy cows. Delaying the introduction of concentrated feed until calving is associated with low feed intake and energy intake in the first week after delivery. However, when increasing the proportion of starchy concentrated feed in the dose, care must be taken not to overfeed the cows. Excessive amounts of non-structural carbohydrates in the feed ration can lead to dangerous health disorders in animals.

Protein requirements 

Cows are equally important during the peripartum period. Insufficient protein in the feed ration during the transitional period results in difficult calving and the occurrence of serious diseases such as retained placenta, postpartum fever, and mastitis. It is recommended that the general protein content in the dry matter of the feed should be 12% in the first period of drying off, and even 14% in the second half of this period. Adequate protein content has a positive effect on milk production and reproduction and reduces the risk of ketosis, but it is also important not to overdo this component. Excessive increases in protein can lead to reduced feed intake in the early lactation period, thereby reducing productivity. As a result, it leads to insufficient nutritional coverage and the occurrence of metabolic disorders, and a decrease in milk yield.

Mineral and vitamin components during the peripartum period 

For the proper drying-off period, we recommend Dolmix BZ – a complementary mixture that contains a set of vitamins, micro, and macroelements, and buffering substances. The supplement eliminates mineral and vitamin deficiencies, prepares the body for calving, reduces energy deficits, prevents metabolic disorders, strengthens the overall immune system, and improves colostrum quality.

During the intensive fetal development period, cows require an adequate amount of minerals and vitamins. The beginning of lactation has high calcium requirements. Other essential components in the diet include selenium, vitamins A, C, D, and E, beta-carotene, as well as iodine, zinc, copper, manganese, and phosphorus. It is beneficial to use supplementary feed mixtures such as Dolmix BZ 2. It effectively minimizes the risk of postpartum fever, postpartum paralysis, retained placenta, and uterine inflammation. A negative cation-anion balance and optimal levels of vitamins A, D, and E improve colostrum quality, support fetal development, accelerate reproductive system regeneration, and protect cows from post-calving mastitis. Dolmix BZ 2+, enriched with β-carotene, improves reproductive indicators, vitality, and immunity of newborn calves. Green fodder, corn silage, carrots, and high-quality hay should be included in the diet of cows due to their high carotene content.

During the peripartum period, we also recommend products such as 

Dolżel SIARA – which improves colostrum quality and composition and plays a vital role in providing essential substances for calf vitality. It should be administered regardless of the use of Dolmix BZ 2 or Dolmix BZ 2+ mixtures.

Dolżel PORÓD – high levels of quickly absorbable forms of calcium and magnesium facilitate the birthing process, prevent postpartum retention, and retained the placenta.

Dolmix Cal-Caps – gelatin capsules containing highly absorbable forms of calcium salts fully meet the calcium requirements, preventing hypocalcemia, postpartum retention, ketosis, abomasal displacements, mastitis, endometritis, and retained placenta.

Feeding cows after calving

 Due to the secretion of colostrum and subsequent milk production, cows have increased nutritional needs immediately after calving, while experiencing a natural decrease in appetite. To prevent deficiencies, supplementation with specialized complementary mixtures is necessary. Immediately after calving, cows should be encouraged to consume a large amount of fluids and electrolyte replenishment. Dolmix PÓJŁO is an ideal choice for post-calving cows as it contains quickly absorbable energy that helps reduce energy deficits. It replenishes electrolyte deficiencies caused by the expulsion of fetal fluids and colostrum secretion. The use of the supplement accelerates postpartum recovery, increases feed intake, improves immunity and vitality, and facilitates the cow’s transition into full lactation.

During the first week after calving, and in case of vitamin, calcium, or magnesium deficiencies, it is recommended to use Dolżel LAKTACJA. This supplement provides liver protection, reduces the likelihood of ketosis, enhances gastrointestinal function, and stimulates the reproductive system.

Further actions aim to improve feed utilization and meet energy requirements through appropriately selected specialized additives, such as Rumen Activator, Dolpower, Dolpower Liquid, Dolpower Protect, Dolfat Protect, and Dolcell. Feeding in the early lactation stage should not deviate from the transitional period. Concentrated feeds should be provided after good-quality roughages. It is also essential to provide cows with access to clean, fresh water at all times. Proper feeding and watering of cows during early lactation lead to improved milk production throughout this period.