Critical periods during the cow’s life
The transition period, three weeks prior to and three weeks after calving, is a very sensitive period for the dairy cow, making transition cow management important for the outcome of the lactation. Research has also shown how important the early life of the dairy calf is, determining the future lifetime productivity and profitability of the adult cow.
The transition cow needs space and comfort (Ken Nordlund, University of Madison-Wisconsin)
The transition period of a dairy cow, typically defined as the time from three weeks both before and after calving, is the primary risk period where over 75% of all adult cow disease events occur. The key factors associated with improved transition cow management relate to provision of sufficient bunk space so that transition cows can eat simultaneously when fresh feed is delivered, increasing cow comfort and minimizing lameness with deeply bedded stalls or packs and provision of ample space within the stall to lie down and facilitate rising, minimizing social stress or the need to establish social rank during last 3-10 days prior to calving, and an effective process to promptly detect fresh cows in need medical attention.
The role of calf nutrition and management on lifetime productivity of dairy cattle (Mike van Amburg, Cornell University)
Early life events appear to have long-term effects on the performance of the calf. Our management approaches and systems need to recognize these effects and capitalize on them. Improving the nutrition and management of calves appears to improve the sustainability of the animal through increased productivity throughout life and this has implications for welfare and the environment along with profitability. We have much to learn about the consistency of the response and the mechanisms that are being affected. Given the amount of variation accounted for in first and subsequent lactation milk yield, there are opportunities to enhance the response once we understand those factors. The bottom line is there appears to be a positive economic outcome as adults by improving the management of our calf and heifer programs starting at birth.