Managing weanling replacement heifers this winter

Managing weanling replacement heifers this winter should be given adequate attention. Reaching the target liveweight for breeding is critical. If 82% of adult liveweight is not reached at calving, energy for growth will take preference over energy for milk yield. This would require extra concentrates to meet the energy demand of both. To achieve this target, daily liveweight gain needs to be between 0.75 to 0.80 Kg. Monitoring weight by using weighing scales or weigh bands is key to achieving the target as information drives management.

Weigh a representative group at housing and again check in early January to assess liveweight gain and adjust the diet if necessary. Separate light heifers at housing.

Silage results this winter are highly variable with crude protein% as low as 9.7%.

Testing is important to adjust the diet. Weather is mild so ensure adequate ventilation and treatment for parasites.

Managing the dry period.

A successful dry period starts with drying off the cow. Using the milk recording sheet is critical in reducing the number of cows that may require antibiotic treatment in addition to teat sealing. This reduces the risk of generating antibiotic resistance in both the cow and human and therefore enhances the value of milk and the products manufactured for human consumption.

The CellCheck virtual week held in October is available on the Animal Health Ireland website to look back on and is well worth a visit.

CellCheck has also produced a leaflet with a self-assessment checklist for winter housing.

Again, know your silage quality and its mineral status as this is critical in managing the dry cow and formulating for the far off and transition period noting BCS (body condition score). A blood profile from the lactating cows and in-calf heifers is useful in establishing the mineral status and in particular selenium and iodine.

The immunity status, reduction in metabolic issues, quantity and quality of colostrum are dependent on the energy, protein and mineral supplementation.     Technology is constantly being developed to provide current information that can aid management such as the ‘SMAXTEC EARLY DETECTION’ that provides a variety of measured data in case of health issues allowing one to respond immediately.

Nutribio Nutritionist – Pat O’Byrne.


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