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How can the weather from harvest affect the health of cows this winter?

Published: Monday, March 7, 2016
Category: Archive

How can the weather from harvest affect the health of cows this winter?

How can the weather from harvest affect the health of cows this winter?

 

With the cows inside and on a full ration, attention should be paid to the quality of the silage and straw being used. This year was generally good for yields but the pattern of weather throughout the summer can give indications of quality and what health problems to watch out for.

 

There was plenty enough rain in the spring and generally good growing conditions for grass but a warm July resulted in some second cuts that were left in the field too long and having too much chance to wilt. A lot of these second cuts were coming off at 40-50% dry matter which will affected the fermentation and pH. Good early growing conditions produced good sugar levels but dry silage with high sugar provides much better conditions for moulds to grow. This can affect palatability, lead to a build-up of mycotoxins and cause ill health. Watch out for moulds on the silage and where this may become a problem look to add mycotoxin absorbent products to the diet to rectify and problems.

 

The wet weather in August delayed harvest, which affected some grain quality, but also straw quality. As the crops stood longer in the field the straw began to go off and moulds had a chance to form. As this straw gets used for bedding this winter, be aware of the risk of seeing high cell counts and mastitis, resulting from the cows coming into contact with these moulds. If these symptoms start to be seen it is best to check the straw and where this may be the case, disinfect or use different straw.

 

The weather in August also had a knock on affect which delayed the maize harvest. Where the maize had to be left to ripen it became more difficult to harvest it at the right time. Where the maize was cut late and the grains became too hard, it becomes more difficult for the starch in those grains to be broken down in the rumen. As a result much of the starch will likely pass through the cow unused. This has the potential to unbalance the ration as the usable starch content will likely be lower than the starch content that the ration has been prepared for. This may unbalance the diet, particularly where it is rationed with other feeds. If the cows are also getting wheat in the ration, the starch in the wheat will digest much easier and quicker than the maize starch and could cause an imbalance that can potentially lead to SARA (acidosis). Seeing a drop in production or an increase in acidosis may be linked back to this. A nutritionist can check the diet and buffers can be added to the feed to support effective rumen performance.

 

Article By Clive Hodge

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