Dairy Farm Management
Before understanding the management of dairy animals we should understand their production Cycle.
Production Cycle of Dairy Animals:
After the birth of female calf, it is reared until it reaches the age of maturity (age of maturity should be 13-15 months in ideal condition; may vary from breed to breed). At this age this heifer is inseminated and becomes pregnant. This pregnant animal spends its first gestation period and normally calves after 9 months (age of first calving should be 22-24 months in ideal condition; may vary from breed to breed). After first calving, animal starts producing milk which is first lactation of animal.
To maintain production cycle, animal is again inseminated two months after first calving. This animal becomes pregnant but continues producing milk (first lactation). Milking of first lactation is stopped two months before next calving. This period of two months in which animal does not produce milk is called dry period.
After calving animal enters into its second lactation and starts producing milk. This animals is again inseminated after two months of calving. In this way production cycle continues.
The duration between the birth of two calves is called calving interval.
Management of Calf after Birth
After parturition, calf management is very necessary because 50% mortality of newborn calves occur due to mismanagement. Important steps are listed below:
- After their birth, calf should preferably be removed immediately from their dams.
- Clean the mucous from the nostrils and mouth cavity and make sure that calf’s respiration is normal. If it is not normal, perform artificial respiration. Artificial respiration can be performed by alternately applying and releasing pressure on the rib cage of calf. Respiration can also be stimulated by inserting the handle of a small, clean spoon about two inches upto the nostrils of the calf and rotating it to stimulate the nerves. Use finger if spoon is not available but never use a stick as it can damage the nostrils. Respiratory stimulants should be used only as a last resort, since subsequently they act to depress respiration.
- Cut the navel cord leaving 3-6 inches part from the body and dip it in tincture iodine twice a day until it dries. Dipping helps dry the cord and protects from infection. The stump should be rechecked for infection during the first 3 days after birth.
- Dry the body of the calf especially in winter to prevent from chilling, hypothermia, and pneumonia that leads to death of the calf. Dry with any clean cloth. This will also stimulate the general blood circulation.
- Record the weight of the calf
- Feed colostrum at rate of 10% body weight within 24 hours (half amount within first hour and other half amount later). The placenta of buffaloes and cows is impermeable for maternal antibodies. Therefore, postnatal transmission via small intestinal absorption is the only source of passive immunity for the newborn calf. The failure of postnatal transmission of maternal antibodies results in:
▪ Mortality rates higher than 50%
▪ Long term impairments of health and production for the survivors
▪ Between birth and weaning (including stillbirths), mortality rate for calves varies from 20 to 25%,
with many deaths directly attributable to lack of maternal antibodies during the first day of life
▪ Additional costs are associated with the increased morbidity and decreased productivity
▪ Calves with lower levels of passive immunity have decreased growth rates
- Colostrum feeding should be continued for three to four days. Overfeeding of cololstrum causes diarrhea which may predispose the calf to other diseases. Overfeeding can be checked only by feeding a weighed amount of colostrum to the calf using a bottle with nipple.
- Male calves are usually sold out at the age of 3 days
Colostrum is defined as the secretion from the mammary gland of mammals during the first/few days after parturition. Secretions from the udder of dairy animals for one day after calving are commonly called as colostrum. Secretions produced on the second and third day postpartum are referred to as transition milk. The first six milkings from fresh dairy animals are considered colosturm for milk marketing purposes and should not be sold. However the most important colostrum for the newborn calf is the first milking. The transition from colosturm to milk is rapid process with dramatic composition changes during first few hours postpartum. The advantages of colostrums feeding are:
- Compared with normal milk, first milking colostrum has fiftyfold higher concentration of antibodies. So colostrums provide passive immunity to calf.
- Colostrum also provides energy which is critically important to the newborn, especially for the first day of life.
- The lactose concentration in colostrum is much lower than that of true milk. This characteristic is biologically important because lactase is not present in the small intestine during the first day of life and a high intake of lactose causes diarrhea in the calf. The low levels of lactose therefore allow high intakes of colostrum during the first day, thereby optimizing passive immunity.
- A concentrated source of growth factors is also furnished by colostrum.
- Colostrum feeding also give some laxative effect and help removing the muconium from intestine.
Composition of colostrum of cow is given below:
|Item||First milking||Second milking||Third milking||Fourth milking (almost milk)|
|Total solids %||23.9||17.9||14.1||12.9|
|Vitamin A||2950 mg/litre||1900 mg/litre||1130 mg/litre||340 mg/litre|
|Vitamin D IU/g fat||0.9-1.8||–||–||–|
|Ig G mg/ml||48.0||25.0||15.0||0.6|
Biosecurity of Young Calves
The most important components of a calf biosecurity plan can be summed up in two concepts given bellow:
Boost up Immunity:
- Excellent colostrum management constitutes the cornerstone of an effective calf biosecurity program.
- Because of the immaturity of the neonatal immune system and the inhibiting effects of maternal antibodies on endogenous antibody production, vaccines are generally ineffective prior to 4 months of age.
- Colostrum-deprived calves can be intravenously infused with exogenous sources of bovine immunoglobulins to provide some support to the immune system.
- Preventing dehydration is important to allow the immune system to function properly.
- Proper nutrition is also important to allow the immune system to respond fully to a pathogenic challenge.
Controlling Exposure to Pathogens:
- Minimizing contacts and improving sanitation are critical in controlling pathogen exposure in young calves.
- Calves born in a dirty environment become easy victims to pathogen exposure, therefore maternity stall should be clean and well-disinfected before a calf is born there.
- The choice of bedding and adequacy of bedding throughout the preweaning period are important.
- Calves should be housed in a well-ventilated and well-drained area in individual pens. Well-ventilated housing is important for calves since they are highly susceptible to respiratory pathogens.
- Adequate space between calves is important to minimize calf-to-calf transmission of airborne pathogens.
- Raising calves on elevated stalls or on gravel without bedding allows faecal pathogens to be removed from the immediate environment frequently and thoroughly. However, where housing requires bedding, the place must be kept dry, sanitary and well-bedded, especially when disease outbreaks occur.
- Caretakers of calves and other people interacting with calves must observe good hygiene.
- Calf caretakers should avoid spreading pathogens to other areas of the farm or from calf to calf
- Calf-raising areas should be isolated from other animals on the farm and drainage should flow in a direction away from the calf-housing.
- Calves should be moved to their new environment as soon as they are completely dried after birth, unless environmental conditions are extremely unfavourable.
Vaccination & Deworing:
For FMD and HS: First injection at age of one month, second injection at the age of 1.5 month, then the repeat after six months of second injection. Vaccination of brucellosis should be done at the age of 4-7 months. Deworming of calf should be done at the age of 2-3 weeks and then after every three months.
Management of Calf from Milk Feeding to Weaning
After the colostrm feeding period, the calf is fed a liquid diet which may contain one or more of the following:
- Surplus colostrum
- Transition milk
- Un-saleable milk (contaminated with antibiotics, mastitic milk or milk withunacceptably high somatic cell count)
- Normal milk
- Milk replacer
Colostrum and transition milk have the best nutritional value of all liquid feeds available to the calf if properly collected and stored. Colostrum can be frozen or fermented and conserved with bicarbonate.
Milk contaminated with antibiotics can be used but has several drawbacks such as effects on beneficial bacteria and high rejection rates which may slow down the growth.
Mastitic milk, if not contaminated with antibiotics, may safely be fed to calves, but not to such calves that suck each others due to the risk of transmission of mastitis pathogens. Moreover, milk from dairy animals with mastitis caused by E. coli and Pasteurella should not be fed unless it has been pasteurized. Pasteurization of waste milk increases the weight gain of calves, decreases mortality and decreases sick days relative to calves fed unpasteurized milk.
Milk replacers are commercially produced or farm produced milk substitutes, which when properly reconstituted with water, have a similar dry matter content as milk.
The economical way of calf feeding is limited milk or milk replacer feeding along with calf starter. Calf starter should be available to the calf preferably during the first week. It should contain 18-20% crude protein and 80% TDN. To encourage intake, calf starter must have a coarse texture with minimal fines to reduce dustiness. Fresh water should always be available to the calf from 3 days of age.
Constituents of calf starter (%):
An economical schedule of calf feeding is given below. In this schedule calf is fed on limited milk along with calf starter. Milk feeding is stopped at the age of two months which is called weaning.
|Age||Milk/ milk Replacer||Calf starter||Water||Fodder|
|After birth||Colostrums (10% of Body Weight)||–||–||–|
|1-2 days||2-4 Kg colsotrum (10% of Body Weight)||–||–||–|
|2-4 days||Milk/milk replacer (10% of Body Weight)||–||Yes||–|
|4-7 days||Milk/milk replacer (10% of Body Weight)||Yes||Yes||–|
|7-14 days||Milk/milk replacer (10% of Body Weight)||Yes||Yes||–|
|2-8 weeks||Start reducing milk/milk replacer||Yes||Yes||Soft green fodder|
|9 weeks||No milk/milk replacer||Yes||Yes||Soft green fodder|
For milk feeding use a bucket with nipple. This bucket should not be placed at floor but at the height of 70 cm.
Management Procedures during Pre-Weaning Period
Some of such procedures are identification of newborns, dehorning, and removing supernumerary teats:
Identification of Calves
Calves should be permanently identified immediately after birth. Different methods of identification are as follows:
Ear tags are the most widely used means of identifying dairy animals. They are made of steel, aluminium, nylon, or plastic. Ear tags are the most commonly used at dairy farms.
Hide branding is used for permanent marking and are easily read. A good hide brand is one that is easily read, cannot be easily changed or tempered with, and interferes with the circulation as little as possible.
Neck Chains or Straps:
These are the means of temporary identification of dairy animals. Occasionally, these may be lost. The caretaker should replace each one the same day instead of allowing several losses to accumulate. In rare instances, an animal will hang itself by the chain. Neck chains or straps must be adjusted as young animals grow or as animals change in condition.
This method of permanent marking of animals consists of piercing the skin with instruments equipped with needle points that form letters or numbers; indelible ink is then rubbed onto the freshly pierced area. The tattooing instrument shouldbe disinfected carefully between each operation. A major disadvantage of tattooing as the sole means of identification is that dairy animals must be restrained so that anyone can read tattoo numbers.
Various such devices are in different stages of research and development. They include the following:
Radio Transmitter in the Reticulum:
The animal swallows a small radio transmitter enclosed in a 1.8 cm x 6 cm plastic capsule, which lodges in the reticulum. From there, it transmits a coded number when signaled by a receiving unit. The transmitter can be retrieved at slaughter and reused.
The transponder can be used on livestock or machines for identification, tracking and theft recovery. On dairy animals, it can be used to identify each individual animal for a grain feeder and in the milking parlour. The transponder consists of an electromagnetic coil and microchip in a glass capsule, which varies in size from a rice grain to a much larger size. The transponder has no power source of its own. A reader emits a magnetic field that activates the transponder so that it transmits its code number. The transponder may be implanted just below the skin of the animal or on a dairy animal’s neckstrap. With their common use, transponders may replace other methods of animal identification in the future.
Radio Frequency Identification (RFID):
In response to increased concerns regarding disease outbreaks such as foot and mouth in other countries, there has been a concerted effort to create a national identification system that would electronically track dairy animals from birth through slaughter. The goal of the National Animal Identification System in USA is to have the capability to identify all animals and premises that had contact with a foreign animal disease (FAD) within 48 hours afterdiscovery. The system presently being tested integrates both a premises identification system and an individual animal numbering system. Initially, implementation of the new system will be on a voluntary basis, however, the intent is to eventually implement a mandatory system for animal tracking. The system incorporates a RFID ear tag that is placed in the left ear of each animal and a RFID handheld reader that connects directly to a personal computer.
Dehoring/disbudding refers to suppressing the growth of the horn. It prevents injuries incurred in fights between calves and other animals in the herd, ensures docility of the animal, reduces chances of injury to people working at the farm and enhances the appearance of the animal. Early dehorning is recommended, preferably before the calf is two months of age (better at the age 12-15 days). At this age, the horn bud is free-floating in the skin layer above the skull. At some point after two months of age, the horn bud attaches to the skull, and a small horn starts to grow. Calves less than two months of age are easier to handle and lose less blood. Also, the danger of infection and screwworm problem is minimized if calves are dehorned at an early age.
Various types of heated dehorners such as electric and gas models are used to burn the tissue surrounding the horn bud. The vessels supplying blood to the growing horn are cauterized. Dehorners are very effective as long as all the tissue surrounding the horn bud is burned all the way through. There is almost no blood loss, thus, there is less chance of infection and screwworm flies. Calf may also be dehorned with caustic potash stick or caustic potash solution. Heifers may also be surgically dehorned later, but this method presents a much higher risk of infection.
Removing Extra Teats
Female calves may be born with more than four teats. The frequency of occurrence of extra teats is higher in cows than in buffaloes. The extra teats are usually located posterior to one or both rear teats, but they may be between the front and rear teats on one or both sides of the calf’s udder. Extra teats have no real value, rather they detract from the appearance of the udder, and may interfere with milking. They should be removed when the calf is 1 to 2 months of age. There is usually little bleeding if extra teats are properly removed.
Management from Weaning to Breeding
Weaning to Six Months:
After weaning calves are shifted from separate stalls to common place where upto 6 animals of the same age group can be kept and fed together. At this stage the rumen is not yet fully developed so the calves should only be given the best quality fodder along with best quality calf starter having 16-18% CP. About half to 1.5 Kg calf starter with green forage maintain desirable growth.
Six to Nine Month:
At six months of age calf are shifted into groups of 15. The feeding regime suggested for the two to six months age group can be continued, except that the concentrate mixture should now contain 12-13% crude protein. Housing can be the same as for the four to six month age group.
Ten Months to Breeding:
Heifers should be housed in small groups of 6 to 10 to reduce stress and competition at the feeding place. Heifers make satisfactory growth during this age on good quality roughage alone. However in periods of scarcity forage must be supplemented with 2-3 Kg concentrate per day.
Today’s heifer is to ultimately enter into milking herd and the age at which heifer enters into a milking herd depends upon its time of breeding which depends upon the age at which heifer reaches puberty and comes into estrous. Age at puberty is influenced by breed, season, feeding, and year of calving. In many of the western countries, well-grown heifers can be bred at 13 to 15 months of age and thus can enter the milking herd at 22 to 24 months of age. The most important factor in governing the age at first estrous is weight along with size. Heifers attain first estrous when attain weight of 250 Kg. Buffalo heifers attain puberty at 400 Kg body weight. If breeding age is to be attained by 13 to 15 months of age, nutrition and management of the growing heifer must be priorities.
- Well-fed and managed heifers show their first oestrus (puberty) at about 35% of their mature weight.
- Underfeeding of heifers delays oestrus. Underfed or slow growing heifers may ovulate, but oestrus signs are often suppressed.
- Heifers in good condition and gaining weight a breeding time generally shows more definite signs of oestrus and have improved conception rates over heifers in poor condition or that are losing weight.
- Overconditioned heifers require more services per conception than heifers of normal weight and size. Overfeeding during the prepubertal period is associated with decrease in subsequent milk yield of about 10%
Heifers should be bred at 60% of mature weight so that they calve at 85% of mature weight. Early breeding of heifers shortens the time from birth to lactation and decreases the cost of managing a nonproducing heifer and lifetime production is greater.
Delayed puberty is attributed to under feeding and poor management conditions and also by season of birth in local cows and buffalos. The possible reasons for subnormal weight gain are:
- Scarcity of green fodder
- Decline in quality of green fodder
- External and internal parasite
- Adverse effect of heat
Adequate housing, splashing water twice give better results specially in buffalo. They will gain weight and come in estrous earlier.
Breeding system in our villages does not consider the genetic worth of the animal. In the traditional system, available bull is used and next generation may be deteriorate in production. Proven bull should always used for breeding purposes to boost production potential in next generation. Selection of bull (contributes 50%) is very important in breeding than the female. The best way for breeding is artificial insemination (AI) for which a well trained AI technician must be called.
Management from Breeding to Pregnancy
Pregnant animals should be watched carefully, particularly during the last stages of pregnancy to avoid abortion due to unnecessary exercise, fights or other physicaltrauma. During early stages of pregnancy, there is no need of special feeding for heifers. The system of feeding and management recommended for heifers before breeding may continue. During last three months of pregnancy when fetal growth is very rapid, a special pregnancy allowance of about 1-2 Kg of concentrate should be offered.
Special care should be taken regarding mineral and vitamin deficiencies because they can have a serious adverse effect on the newborn calf. Feeding trace mineralized salt plus recommended amounts of calcium and phosphorus is usually sufficient to avoid these problems. Care must be taken that calcium and phosphorus should not be taken in excessive amounts.
During the last few weeks of pregnancy there is a tendency of prolapsed of vagina which may be caused by constipation, mineral deficiency and debility. Balanced and laxative rations should be fed to maintain the normal tone of the reproductive tract. Some time udder edema occurs before calving. This can be avoided by moderate exercise for a half an hour, two to three times per day. Massaging the udder for a few minutes is also helpful. Use of diuretics and prepartum milking may be helpful in severe cases.
Isolate the pregnant animal 8-10 days before the expected date of calving and keep it in a clean well bedded, dry and disinfected maternity pen. The animal should be watched closely as calving time approaches at least every two to three hours.
A good calving environment reduces the exposure of cows and newborn calves to infectious disease. A clean and comfortable area that provides cows with good footing minimizes the potential for injuries. Calving areas should be landscaped to allow for adequate drainage. Shade structures are recommended.
Calves are usually born without assistance. Any abnormality in their presentation requires immediate attention by a competent person to correct the position of the calf so that it can be delivered. Strict sanitation must be observed during assistance.
After removal of calf, milk animal it will help in removal of placenta. Placenta is normally expelled within 2 to 6 hours after calving. If placenta fails to be expelled with 12 hours it is considered retained placenta. In case of retained placenta veterinarian should be called for its removal.
After normal birth, the dam is alert and willing to eat and drink within one or two hours of calving. Warm water and some wheat bran should be offered to dam after calving. It is necessary to encourage the dairy animals to rise and to move to the manger for feeding after calving, especially on the day of calving and the first 2 days after calving. The animal should be closely watched for health problems after calving. In addition to observing feed intake and milk production, rectal temperature and ketone levels should be monitored daily. Animals having health problems should be identified and treated accordingly, whereas healthy animals can join the general population 3 to 4 days postpartum.
Management of Milking Animals
To get high milk during any lactation, the milch animal should be properly fed and necessary care and managemental practices should be followed.
Animal should be provided with good quality silage or hay as maintenance requirements are fulfilled by it. Extra concentrate at the rate of 1 kg for every 2 liters of milk should be provided. Salt and mineral should be supplemented . Never frighten or excite the animals. Always treat them gently and with kindness. Fresh, clean water should be available at all times. Lukewarm water is preferred over cold in severe winter. Consumption is significantly depressed due to cold water. Milk animal at regular time and interval. If we change time or interval, the production declines. There should be interval of 8-14 hours. Milking should be done quickly, regularly, cleanly, gently and completely. At the time of milk let down oxytocin is released. Its half life is 7-8 minutes. If milking is not quick, there will be low milk production. So be quick and gentle. In fear epinephrine and nor epinephrine is released which have reverse effect of oxytocin so never frighten animal during milking. Do not
leave milk in udder; otherwise next time there will be decrease in milk. Increasing milking frequency from two times a day to three times daily may increase milk production by about 2.5 to 3.5 litres per day.
Cow must be bred upto 60 days after calving for next calf. For this purpose proper heat detection is required. When animal come into heat, call AI technician for insemination.
Lactation period of animal is divided into three phases.
Phase 1. 0-70 Days after calving (Early Lactation): During this phase milk production increases rapidly.
Phase 2. 70-140 days after calving (Peak Lactation): During this phase animal has peak production.
Phase 3. 140-305 days after calving (Mid and late lactation): During this phase milk production declining and reaches the lowest. After this phase dry period starts.
Basically there are two methods of milking: hand milking and machine milking.
Stripping and full-hand milking are the two commonly used methods of hand milking.
Stripping consists of firmly seizing the teat at its base between the thumb and forefinger and drawing them down the entire length of the teat pressing it simultaneously to cause the milk to flow down in a stream. The process is repeated in quick succession. Both hands may be used, each holding a different teat, stripping alternately.
The full-hand method comprises holding the whole teat in the fist, fingers encircling the teat. The base of the teat is closed in the ring formed by the thumb and fore finger so that milk trapped in the teat sinus may not slip back into the gland cistern. Simultaneously, teat is squeezed between the middle, ring and little fingers and the hollow of palm, thus, forcing the milk out. This process should be repeated in quick succession. By maintaining a quick succession of alternate compressions and relaxations the alternate streams of milk from the two teats sound like one continuous stream. Many milkers tend to bend their thumb in, against the teat while milking. This practice should be avoided as it injures the teat tissues.
Full-hand milking removes milk quicker than stripping because of no loss of time in changing the position of the hand. Cows with large teats and buffaloes are milked by full-hand method; but stripping has to be adopted for cows with smaller teats. Full-hand method is superior to stripping as it simulates the natural suckling process by calf. Stripping causes more irritation to teats due to repeated sliding of fingers on teats; and so discomfort to cows. In spite of these drawbacks when all milk that is available is drawn out by full-hand method, stripping should be resorted to milk the animal completely; the last drawn milk is called strippings and is richer in fat.
The hands should be perfectly dry while milking because wet-hand milking makes the teats look harsh and dry chafes, cracks and sores appear, which are painful to animal.
In modern dairy farming cows are milked through machine. The working principle of the milking machine is imitating the calf suckling. The milk is extracted in a rubber liner applied on the teat with a lower pressure (vacuum) than the surrounding atmospheric pressure. In order to avoid damage on the teat the liner is periodically collapsed to create a massage and relief on the teat exposed to vacuum. This is called pulsation and occurs normally once every second.
Components of Milking Machine:
This can be seen as the “heart” of the milking machine, without it we cannot milk. It creates vacuum by sucking air out of the system (pipes, receiver, etc) to suck the milk out of the cow’s udder.
This “trap” protects the vacuum pump from moisture and dirt that might be sucked up through the vacuum lines by accident.
This can be seen as the “brain” of the milking machine, and controls the vacuum level in the system, by letting in extra air when the vacuum level rises too high and closing when the vacuum level drops too low. It can be very harmful to the cow if the vacuum level rises too high, and the teats of the cow can be damaged.
This line transports the vacuum to the pulsators
This important device simulates the suckling of the cow, and stimulates the cow to let down the milk to be sucked out by the vacuum. It also massages the teats of the cow.
Because the milking machine works under vacuum, and we pump the milk to a cooling tank, we have to use a receiver to collect all the milk during the milking process, and then pump it to the cooling tank for refrigeration.
This line transports the vacuum to the cluster and then transports milk from the cluster to the receiver.
The cluster consists of the rubber liners that fit tightly around the teats to extract the milk and a collection bowl where the milk is collected from the four teats.
The job of the cooling tank is to cool down the milk as fast as possible, preferable to about 4°C within 3 hours after milking. It is important that we cool down the milk to 4 °C as fast as possible to prevent bacteria growth. If we do not cool it down quickly enough, it will become sour.
Operation of Milking Machine/Milking Parlour:
- Before starting milking make sure all equipment and tools are at hand and in proper condition. Wash your hands thoroughly before starting milking.
- Start milking with young fresh calver and healthy cow. Then milk old cows and finish milking with treated cows.
- Always handle animals with care and in a calm and considerate way. No yelling or beating if you want them to give you all their milk. Preferably shower the animal
- Clean and massage the cow’s udder. Use dry cleaning if the udder is clean. If it is so dirty clean it with warm water and dry with udder towel. Never use same udder towel for each cow.
- Dip the teat in some recommended dip solution and after dipping clean it with tissue paper. This will eliminate infections to spread from the outside of the teat to the inside of the same or other teats milked with the same unit.
- Put on the milking unit within one minute after preparation.
- Monitor the milking and adjust the unit if it starts squeaking or if the cow appears uncomfortable.
- Take off the unit when the milk flow has ceased or is very low. Check that the udder is empty before you remove the unit.
- Dip the teat in post dipping solution within one minute after takeoff. This will safeguard disinfection and protection of the teat canal while it still is open.
- Register the observations you do on the individual cows during milking. In many production systems milking is the only time of the day when you are close to all the individual lactating cows.
- A persistent routine is very important for this action as the cows will develop a let down reflex that is adjusted to such a routine.
At large scale dairy farms milking is done in milking parlours and milking lines. Different types of milking parlours are discussed in Farm Building section of this website.
Management of Dry Animals
Milking of animal should be stopped two months before parturition. This is called dry period of animal. Dry period is necessary for four purposes:
- To give rest to organs of milk secretions
- To permit nutrients to be stored for developing fetus
- Replenish the body scores
- Build up of body flesh
Cows which are not given dry period do not produce sufficient milk
There are three ways to dry:
- Incomplete milking
- Intermittent milking
- Abrupt cessation
At the time of dry-off, cattle are at various levels of milk production. It is thought that reducing milk production before dry-off may help to dry-off the mammary gland quicker and reduce milk leakage. Lowering milk production before dry off can be achieved by reducing the amount of concentrates in the diet and by feeding low energy forages. Water intake should also be curtailed. Dietary changes need to be made gradually. This especially is important in case of animals producing more than 15 litres milk per day. It is recommended that all low yielding animals be dried off abruptly since it will minimize total stress and is easier to manage. Dry period of 45-60 days is advisable. Less than 45 days is not useful and above 60 days is not economical.
Dry dairy animals should be divided into early/mid and late dry groups. The late or close-up group would comprise those animals that are expected to calve within 2 to 4 weeks. The early/mid dry group should consist of other animals, recognizing that those which have been dried off might need more critical observation and care.
The primary objective of dry animal nutrition is to optimize milk yield, reproduction and health in the subsequent lactation by starting to control negative energy balance and mineral metabolism in dry period and to avoid occurrence of fatty liver, milk fever and other associated diseases.
During the close-up period, dry animals should be on a rising plan of nutrition to compensate for decreasing feed intake, to prevent negative energy balance and subsequent mobilization of adipose tissue, and to meet nutrient requirements of advanced pregnancy. Such a ration should contain small amounts of the same forages and concentrates as fed to lactatingdairy animals. The change to a higher grain diet in the close-up period must be made gradually. The additional concentrate will not only help the rumen adapt to the higher starch contents of the ration in early lactation, but will also provide the nutrients necessary for the growing fetus and other organ changes that are occurring in preparation for lactation. The crude protein content of dry animal close-up ration should be 13 to 14 % on a dry matter basis. Additional undegradable protein fed during late gestation may improve body condition at calving, subsequent milk yield, reproductive performance, and result in fewer health disorders. Dry animal must also be provided with sufficient amount of mineral and vitamins. During close up period animal should not be given excessive amount of calcium as due to negative feedback mechanism it may stop the release of calcium from body and may lead to milk fever after parturition.