Healthy Immune Function Helps Protect Dairy Cows From Forage Quality Challenges
Dairy cows face year-round stress factors that can weaken their immune system and make them more susceptible to health issues. One possible challenge is the introduction of new crop forages in the fall leading to dry, transition and lactating cow diet changes. Variation in forage quality, weather challenges before or during harvest, and less than optimum conditions for proper fermentation may increase the herds’ susceptibility to health issues and compromise production.
A responsive immune system will support herd health and productivity as producers and their nutritionists work through new diet changes and begin feeding new crop forages. Issues with forage quality including mold and yeast growth, may suppress the herds’ immune system leading to health issues and lower milk production.
East River Dairy in Cortland, N.Y., saw fewer challenges with health issues related to forage transition by including OmniGen-AF®, a nutritional specialty product from Phibro Animal Health Corporation, in cow diets. “At East River Dairy, we know when feeding OmniGen-AF we have fewer challenges with the cows during ration changes, like going from one year’s corn silage to the next,” said dairy owner, Stuart Young.
OmniGen-AF is recommended to be fed to all dry, pre-fresh and lactating cows to help support normal immune function in the face of expected and unexpected stress events. Continual use helps support a healthy immune system, which may result in fewer health events, a lower somatic cell count and fewer cases of mastitis and metritis. This, in turn, may lead to higher milk production and fewer unplanned culls.
Dr. Jamie Jarrett, Ph.D., Dairy Technology Manager with Phibro Animal Health, recommends these additional steps to help manage forage quality challenges:
- Plan ahead and estimate when major feed changes need to take place.
- Test ensiled forages routinely, since mold, yeast and nutrient contents change over time.
- Pay close attention to quality issues at both ends of bunker silos, silage bags and drive-over piles.
- Transition cows from current to new forage during a period of 7 to 10 days, blending new and current forage so cows can adapt to the new forage.
- “Listen” to your cows. Utilize current nutrient analysis, and consider mold and yeast counts (minimize inputs when possible) to re-balance rations. But analysis on paper alone does not indicate how cows will respond. Continue to make directional adjustments as cows “tell” you what they need.