Experts from Scotland’s Rural College (SAC) have warned livestock farmers that last year’s excellent summer has raised the risk their cows could be over-fat come calving time.
The cold spring was followed by a warm season with good grass growth producing excellent quality silage and hay. If farmers have not adjusted their feeding regime to account for this increased nutrition, over-fat cows could have calving problems.
It is something well-known beef specialist Basil Lowman of SAC Consulting, has noticed among herds he has visited this winter.
“Some producers are concerned about the condition of their cows and the potential for a much higher risk of calving difficulties when calving starts in a month’s time,” he says.
Difficulties at calving time are often linked to both the genetics of the cow and her calf or, more importantly, by the management of the cow and her condition at calving. Producers agree calving difficulties incur major costs, for example from the calf that is slow to get going, hence is at more risk of disease and even death.
“Cows with calving difficulties can lead to increased infertility and a larger number not in calf. In extreme cases it can lead to the premature culling of cows at well below their potential market value.
The advice from Dr Lowman and his SAC Consulting colleagues is for suckled calf producers with herds due to calf this spring to set aside an hour, preferably with a friend, neighbour or their vet, to walk among their cows and discuss how fit they really think they are. The objective is to identify which cows, if any, need to be urgently slimmed down.
Dr Lowman added: “If there are a proportion of obese cows, with rings of fat clearly visible around their tail head, then these should be drawn out into a separate group and put on to a well-balanced, straw-based ration to encourage them to lose as much fat as possible prior to calving.
“This may seem just extra cost and hassle, but compared with severe calving difficulties, caesareans or even casualties, it will be time and money extremely well invested.”