The term transition cow is used to describe a cow moving into a new lactation, typically around the time of calving when a cow’s milk production begins to increase as it prepares to nurse its calf. During this transition period, cows experience a variety of physiological changes that impact their health and milk production, thus requiring careful management and monitoring to ensure optimal health and well-being.
Inadequate nutrition, stress, disease, and physical challenges, such as lameness, are some of the risk factors cows face during transition that may increase the likelihood of health problems. Transition cows may also face an increased risk of developing metabolic disorders, such as ketosis and milk fever, which can have serious consequences on their health and productivity.
To mitigate the impact of these risk factors, herdsmen can:
- Provide a balanced and nutrient-rich diet
- Routinely monitor cow health
- Promptly address any potential health issues
- Provide a comfortable, stress-free environment (adequate ventilation, comfortable bedding, easy access to clean water)
Afimilk provides solutions that monitor transition cows and analyze the data to help herdsmen make informed decisions that work to prevent risk factors that rob performance.
Known for their accuracy and as the first to gain ICAR approval, Afimilk MPC and milk meter precisely measure milk with a fill and dump style meter. After the first milking session, the system expects all fresh cows to increase their milk production day after day. When a cow fails to meet the expected yield based on the first day’s production levels, the cow will be flagged for a checkup.
For high yielding cows, this is also a valuable tool. There will come a point when a high yielding cow (ie. 100-lb cow) will be unable to keep increasing production. Since these cows are more prone to metabolic disorders, a system that flags cows who fail to increase production during transition can ensure they get the attention they need.
AfiLab is another tool that can alert herdsmen to issues during transition. By analyzing the ratio of milk components, AfiLab can detect ketosis cows earlier and more successfully than any other method¹. Component measurements are taken on each cow during every session, ensuring cows are continuously monitored throughout the transition.
Timing is a critical factor for identifying metabolic issues as a few hours difference can impact a cow’s recovery. By monitoring fresh cows in each session, AfiLab can detect sub clinical Ketosis cows that are just starting to lack energy, but are not at a clinical stage and suffering a significant energy deficiency. Catching these cows early will lead to a much easier recovery with minimal production loss.
AfiCollar is a neck sensor that measures rumination, eating, heat stress and activity. It enables farms to identify transitioning cows that do not regain their rumination and eating routine after calving, indicating the cow is not consuming enough feed to supply its energy needs.
While farms that combine rumination, eating and milk production data are able to make the most informed decisions, valuable insights from AfiCollar allow farms that leverage standalone cow monitoring to detect sick cows just from rumination and eating time – giving herdsmen alerts to promptly check on underperforming cows.
Cow ID is a particular challenge during transition as animals will often change pens or facilities. Since rapid detection of risk factors or illness is crucial to limit their impact during transition, an accurate, reliable ID system in the parlor is highly valuable, though often overlooked.
In summary, managing transition cows is critical to help your herd achieve its maximum potential and avoid significant production losses through the rest of their lactation. Afimilk provides accurate, reliable tools that can not only find cows that are not increasing milk production as expected, but can detect subclinical ketosis and other health issues, allowing for early intervention at all stages of lactation.
By Amit Golan, Afimilk USA
¹Schcolnik, Using milk fat-to-protein ratio to evaluate dairy cows energy balance status. J. Anim. Sci Vol 94, E-Suppl. 5/J Dairy Sci. Vol. 99