Use partial DCAD to get her off to a good start
In the Southeastern U.S., hay-crop forages are typically high in potassium. And that can make the transition period more challenging for dairy cows. That's exactly the problem that Vale, North Carolina dairy producer Andrew Lail was facing.
In early 2015, up to one-third of the cows that calved at Lail's 225-cow Holstein dairy were experiencing symptoms of hypocalcemia – both clinical milk fevers and subclinical signs.
"There were a few milk fevers, but the biggest issue was way too many retained placentas and too much metritis," explains nutritionist, Jim Howard of Star Milling. "Andrew wanted to find a solution. He didn't like having to treat so many cows," He wanted to provide a smoother transition for his cows to get them off to a better start.
Lail's dry-cow program was simple. Far-off dry cows graze until 3 weeks before calving. The close-up cows are moved into a separate pen where they receive the lactating TMR mixed with some dry cow heifer feed. They also receive free-choice oat hay. Despite their efforts, Lail was not getting the results he wanted. And with a small, already stretched-for-time staff, any solution had to be easily manageable.
Lail called in his veterinarian Greg Whitner to help. Andrew's veterinarian explained that DCAD was the solution his transition cows needed, says Howard. But Lail was concerned about the amount of management time required to do it right. Using pH test strips to determine the urine pH is labor-intensive and he didn't feel that he and his small staff had the extra time to commit to it.
If DCAD was the answer, then Howard knew he needed to learn more in order to help his clients utilize it in their small herds. He contacted Terry Creel, Dairy Nutrition Plus product line sales manager for help in finding a solution. Creel explained that partial DCAD is a phased-in approach to adjusting the dietary ratios of sodium, potassium, chloride, and sulfate in the pre-fresh diet. With partial DCAD, less anionic supplement is fed therefore less monitoring is needed. But the cows still benefit from a noticeable reduction in milk fever and other problems associated with hypocalcemia.
Howard was intrigued. He agreed to bring the idea to his client if it met two conditions: 1. It had to work. 2. It couldn't be labor intensive to implement.
Lail, Howard and Whitner worked with Dr. Tim Brown, SoyChlor's on-staff nutritionist, to give partial DCAD a try.
Brown explained that partial DCAD is a lot like learning to ride a bike with training wheels. You get the benefit of riding the bike, but the training wheels help prevent you from crashing. With partial DCAD you feed less anionic supplement than with full DCAD, but it is still enough to deliver results – to minimize the risk for cows of experiencing hypocalcemia.
In addition management requirements with partial DCAD are less stringent. There is less risk of overfeeding the anionic supplement, because the DCAD is calculated at a more moderate level. Urine pH testing is still a good idea, but not nearly as intensive as with a full DCAD program. The other benefit, says Brown, it gives your staff time to learn the ropes with partial DCAD. Then, if the dairy decides to step up to a full DCAD program, the transition is easier because the staff already has the skills and the confidence it needs to implement it.
"The goal was to make the program simple but still yield healthier cows," says Howard. They started with 2 pounds of SoyChlor top dressed to 35 pounds of milking cow TMR for each pre-fresh cow. The Soy-Chlor is hand mixed in for each cow. At 225 cows the herd is not large enough to mix a separate TMR for the few cows in the close-up pen. That's why Lail hand-mixes the SoyChlor in for close-up cows.
After starting the partial DCAD program they urine tested a few cows using pH test strips. The pH was running in the mid-sevens – a little high for their goal of 6.0 - 7.0. They bumped up the amount of SoyChlor to 2.5 pounds per cow per day with their TMR and that seems to have been the solution. (Sometimes it takes more incremental adjustments to find the right amount for a herd.)
Since starting the partial DCAD using SoyChlor, Lail rarely has had to treat a cow for milk fever. In addition, the incidence of retained placenta is way down and metritis seems to be a thing of the past.
"To me the partial DCAD program has been a success," says Howard. "Andrew no longer routinely treats cows for metritis." His transition cows now have a more problem free, and healthier transition into lactation. And all of this was accomplished without a lot of added labor.
"Not only did SoyChlor deliver the results we were looking for," says Howard. The Dairy Nutrition Plus team took the time to understand our goals and showed us how to make it happen within our parameters.
|8.0+||Too High: This is "normal" for cow urine, and regardless of how much anionic supplement you are feeding, the cows are not acidified. They are at risk of milk fever.|
|7.0 – 8.0||Still a Little High: Some milk fevers will be prevented, but many more benefits will be obtained with slightly more metabolic acidification.|
|6.0 – 7.0||Ideal Range for Partial DCAD: Many noticeable benefits will be realized, but cows are not in danger of over-acidification.|
|5.5 – 6.0||This Range Indicates Full DCAD: Maximum benefits will be derived, but urine pH needs to be monitored closely to make sure cows don't become overly-acidified (pH less than 5.5).|