Now is the time to be thinking about dairy nutrition to set the herd up for better milk production and fertility in the next lactation.
This is the advice from InCalf's Dr Barry Zimmermann. InCalf is Dairy Australia's national project to help improve herd fertility.
"Late lactation is the best opportunity to review body condition and adjust nutritional management to have cows calving in the ideal condition which sets them up for the coming lactation and joining period," said Dr Zimmermann.
InCalf recommends assessing herd body condition about eight weeks before drying off.
"Aim to have dry off cows in ideal condition for calving. If they are below ideal condition consider improving their diet between now and drying of; by allocating more high-quality pasture or supplement."
The ideal body condition score at calving is 4.5-5.5 (based on the Condition Magician scale of 1-8). If most of the herd is in ideal condition, a lower cost option may be to separate the thin cows for preferential feeding with a supplement.
Now is also the time to be planning the herd's nutrition during the dry period.
"Don't fall for the mistake of under-feeding dry cows. You don't want them to lose weight at this time," he said.
Cows require extra energy and protein in the final two to four weeks of pregnancy to meet the higher demands of the developing calf.
"A 550kg dry cow needs about 90-100 megajoules of metabilisable energy a day and 11-12% crude protein so poor quality pasture and hay will not be enough."
Consider gradually introducing a grain supplement in the two weeks leading up to calving. This will help meet the extra requirements of the developing calf and also help prepare the rumen for concentrate feeding after calving so will reduce the risk of grain poisoning.