Researchers studying how pre-calving feeding can affect cow health

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CANTON, N.Y. (WWTI) — The farmer-driven Northern New York Agricultural Development Program is funding research that will evaluate how pre-calving feed management impacts post-calving cow health.

Cornell Cooperative Extension Regional Dairy Specialist Casey Havekes, in collaboration with Cornell PRO-DAIRY Director Thomas Overton, Ph.D. will be working with dairy herds in northern New York to develop a data-based understanding of the feeding management factors that influence cow health during the transition period from two weeks prior to calving to three weeks after giving birth.

“The transition period from pre-calving to post-calving is a critical time for maintaining cow health for successful calving and for maintaining a strong future for that cow in the dairy herd,” Havekes said. “With this project, we are looking to identify the nutritional and management characteristics in the pre-calving cow diet that influence post-calving cow health.”

Researchers will evaluate nutrient content, moisture level, and forage particle size of the cows’ ration pre-calving as well as the cows’ eating behavior throughout the transition period.

The project is making one of the first applications of the Metabolic Health Index adapted by the Overton laboratory at Cornell University to identify cows that may be at higher risk of post-calving health issues, such as ketosis, hypocalcemia, or poorer adaptation to lactation.

According to Cornell University, the cost of treating hypocalcemia, which refers to low calcium levels in the blood, and ketosis, when the body doesn’t have enough carbohydrates to burn for energy, can cost around $335 and $117 for each case per cow.

The results of this 2021 research project will be posted in the Research: Dairy section of the NNYADP website.

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