Ensuring a smooth transition from the dry period to lactation is key to setting cows up for successful performance and reproduction for the entire lactation. Correct nutrition, optimised rumen function, maintaining a consistent diet and cow comfort are essential to maximising herd health and performance potential.
Camarthenshire farmer Simon Davies milks 300 cows together with 250 followers and 20 young bulls on their 300-acre farm and breeds pedigree Holstein cows with his wife Sian and sons Isaac and Elliott. Their all year-round calving herd have an average annual yield of 11,000 litres with 4.1% butterfat and 3.2% protein, which supplies Müller Wiseman Dairies.
The Castellhyfryd herd is well known for their exceptional genetics and showring successes, and one of their cows, Castellhyfryd Spirte Rosina, has won Supreme Champion Holstein at the Royal Welsh Show three times. Still a strong member of the milking herd at 13 years old, to date she has yielded just over 150 tonnes and has recently been flushed, giving 13 embryos for implantation into surrogates.
The herd is fed on home-grown grass silage and purchased forage maize, balanced with compound, a bespoke lactating blend and technical support from Bibby Agriculture. Cows are fed for maintenance plus 36 litres of milk in the TMR, and any additional nutrients for cows yielding over 36 litres is fed through concentrate in the parlour. The milking heifers are managed in a separate group to the main milking herd in order to ensure they can grow to their full potential.
Cows get dried off 45 days prior to calving and are put into a far-off dry group. At 21 days before calving, they are put into a close-up group and Bibby’s “Transition Gold” dry cow blend is introduced at a rate of 3kg/h/d. The blend contains high levels of Actisaf and Safmannan to prepare transition cows for the demands of early lactation, as well as support immune status and production of high-quality colostrum.
“The bespoke dry cow ration provides cows with a smooth transition to the milking cow diet. Transition Gold primes the rumen enabling them to cope with high intakes and any possible immunity challenges post-calving,” explained Anwen Jones Bibby Agriculture Dairy Development Manager.
“Actisaf and Safmannan have a big role to play in this, giving the cows the best start. You wouldn’t run a marathon without any training, and the cow is no different. Their rumen needs preparation for a successful early lactation, and this comes from the dry cow diet.”
A multi-cut system provides five cuts a year of grass that is excellent quality that can pose a problem for rumen function. “Forage maize is available to us for around 10 months of the year, and we were seeing dips in performance from minor acidosis when it was removed from the diet in the summer. However, including Actisaf in the diet has helped counter this problem,” Simon said.
“Carwyn James from Bibby suggested that we start adding Actisaf to our milking cow diet in January to help with rumen function and deal with diet changes, and you could really see the difference in their behaviour, their manure and, more importantly, their yields. Since adding the Actisaf our butterfat levels have risen from 3.9% to 4.1%!”
“After seeing those results, we decided to also make a bespoke dry cow diet with Bibby that includes Transition Gold, which was another successful move. Milk fever rates have dropped to virtually zero and the cows seem really content. They have good rumination and cudding rates and dung consistency is good, all of which I’m happy about.”
Bibby Agriculture encourages all of their farmers to think long-term when it comes to making decisions about feeding all members of the dairy herd. “Actisaf provides a safety net during diet transitions, and the high yielding Castellhyfryd herd is a great example of this. We include Actisaf in the youngstock compound, transition blend, and throughout the dairy diet both in and out of the parlour,” concluded Carwyn.
“The results at Brynhyfryd speak for themselves – excellent yields are achieved coupled with impressive milk solids.”