Evaluate transition cow program
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Evaluate your transition cow program

June 11, 2020
POSTED BY: Matt Boyle | DVM | Dairy Technical Services | Zoetis

Healthy cows are the foundation of healthy dairies. Many dairies rely on the success of fresh cows to determine the success of their operation, and this starts during the time calves are delivered. The key to successful fresh cows? Your transition cow program. Dairies can evaluate transition cow management risk factors with the Transition Cow Risk Assessment (TCRA).

Developed by the University of Wisconsin, Madison, School of Veterinary Medicine, the TCRA provides objective benchmarks to help identify potential bottlenecks that could impact fresh cow health and productivity. The TCRA offers benchmarks for the following:

  1. Space per cow. How much space your cows have to eat and move around can positively or negatively impact their disease risk. Aim for at least 100 square feet per cow of bedded pack area and at least 30 inches per cow at the feed bunk.
  2. Locomotion. Hoof health is a welfare issue and is critical for achieving adequate dry matter intake. Less than 10% of the herd should have a prefresh locomotion score of 3 or 4 on a 4-point scale. 
  3. Body condition. Too high or too low body condition score (BCS) predisposes cows to illness. Aim to have fewer than 10% of the prefresh herd with a BCS <2.5 or >4.0.
  4. Pen moves and lockup time. Evaluate the number of pen moves that occur from pre-calving through post-calving. Work with your veterinarian to reduce that number. Aim for an hour or less of lockup time for fresh cow monitoring.
  5. Fresh cow monitoring periods. During the first 60 days of lactation, cows that experience fresh cow diseases, like metritis and mastitis, run the greatest risk for culling. An extended monitoring period can help you minimize disease risk and improve productivity. Use turnover during the first 60 DIM, with a goal of <6%, as an indicator of how successful your transition program actually is.

Fine-tuning your fresh cow management and evaluating risk factors with the TCRA can give your dairy a competitive advantage in improving productivity and profitability. With the data from the TCRA, dairies can identify profit opportunities, consistently monitor herd health and evaluate on-farm decisions that can influence lactation and health outcomes.

Talk with your veterinarian about implementing the Transition Cow Risk Assessment.

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