Fresh Cow Education

For the fresh cow, the entire transition period is really a series of one stress event followed by another. From decreased dry matter intake close up, to challenges with rehydration and re-establishment of feed intake post-freshening, the dairyman needs solutions that encourage a healthy recovery and optimal lactation performance. Many fresh cow challenges can be mitigated with proper nutrition delivered at just the right time.

Key Fresh Cow Challenges

It is important to understand the most common freshening challenges and introduce timely nutritional solutions proven to help the post-fresh cow recover quickly while demonstrating solid economic benefits to the dairy producer. There are only two acceptable stressors for cows: high production and calving. All other stressors can be eliminated or at least minimized. Prevent fresh cow troubles before clinical symptoms of disease show up.

Phase 1: Pre-freshening
When cows freshen, their feed intake drops up to 25% in the first 24-48 hours after calving. However, research shows that feed intake actually drops significantly in close up cows. Combined, this reduction in feed intake puts the cow at a significant post-freshening nutritional disadvantage heading into lactation where her nutritional demands are great.

Due to the large amount of physical and nutritional stress put on the fresh cow, there are many physical and metabolic challenges that can be triggered. The most common challenges amy include the following; hypocalcemia, dehydration, ketosis, retained placentas, milk fever and displaced abomasums.

Phase 2: Freshening
Hypocalcemia (low blood calcium)
Every new lactation tests the cow's ability to maintain adequate blood calcium levels. Healthy cows have 10-12 grams calcium in their blood but producing milk requires significant amounts of calcium which the cow needs to accommodate. Colostrum production alone demands 20-30 grams of calcium in the first day. It's clear that the physical demands for supplemental calcium are quite obvious.

Blood calcium is required for normal muscle and nerve function - especially as it relates to strength and gastrointestinal motility. Cows that do not have adequate amounts of calcium can readily be challenged with hypocalcemia. According to research 10-20% of multiparous cows are clinically hypocalcemic at freshening; another 50% can be considered subclinical and do not necessarily have to be lying down to show this.

Subclinical Hypocalcemia has greater treatment and production costs than clinical cases of milk fever!

The physiology of hypocalcemia
The beginning of lactation challenges the calcium balance in the cow. Due to colostrum and milk being very high in calcium the cow's body pulls milk from those sources to compensate. This activity causes a negative calcium balance within the cow that continues for roughly the first 90 days of lactation. 

Subclinical Hypocalcemia means a cow has low blood calcium levels without the symptoms of clinical milk fever. Due to the symptoms being undetected, the economic losses of subclinical hypocalcemia far exceed the costs associated with milk fever. 

Phase 3: Post-freshening
Negative Energy Balance
When energy intake is less than energy used for milk production and typical cow maintenance, a cow can fall into a negative energy state. There are many factors that effect cow's energy levels; hormonal changes, a growing fetus and low dry matter intake are a few that increase negative energy.

Recovery with proper nutrition can happen quickly; however, recovery can be detrimental to the life of the cow without proper nutrient support

Research shows that water intake helps improve feed intake. However prior to freshening, feed and water intake are both shown to decline leaving the cow somewhat dehydrated even before she freshens. Studies have shown, during this time up to 14 gallons of extracellular fluids are lost. Add this to the fact that fluid and tissue loss during freshening can equal the weight of the calf and she now has an immediate demand to produce milk. 






It should be noted that university studies indicate cattle with 
7-8% dehydration levels show impaired immune response.

Cattle with 2-4 percent dehydration or less will have minimal observable clinical signs but physiological and performance efficiency can be reduced.

Water loss during heat stress can be quite evident by observing the cows body condition. But even in periods when heat stress is not a factor maintaining proper hydration is important as cows continually lose water via:

• Milk production (25-35% of total water intake)
• Freshening (fluid loss equal in weight to the calf)
• Fecal (30-35% of total water intake)
• Urine (15-21% of total water intake)
• Vapor loss from the lungs
• Digestion
• Disease, diarrhea, malabsorption

Economic Impact

The transition period should be the pinnacle of a dairyman's focus, because any miscalculation here can cost thousands in either health related issues or long-term production losses. In fact, 70-80% of veterinary costs are incurred 1-3 weeks post-freshening. With proper understanding of the relationship between fresh cow physiology and proper nutrition, a dairyman can save big on treatment interventions, culling or lost production. The table below, highlights some of the key post-freshening challenges and associated treatment costs.


Fresh Cow Program

Our Fresh Cow Program provides the nutrients required for post-freshening recovery into lactation.

These three products have become the nutrition cornerstone for fresh cow groups around the world. Each is formulated to specifically address nutrition needs at very specific points during transition. This product grouping is considered the fresh cow protocol, and recommended for use on every fresh cow.

Description: Contains yeast, magnesium, calcium, potassium, niacin, betaine and other key nutrients to support the transition into lactation after freshening. Fresh Cow YMCP supports feed intake, post-freshening recovery and maintains milk production.  
Learn more about Fresh Cow YMCP

Description: Contains 30 billion colony forming units of live yeast, and the veterinary recommended 6 grams of niacin which helps support rumen fermentation in high producing dairy cows. Rumen Yeast Caps supports appetite and dry matter intake, and supports production levels.  
Learn more about Rumen Yeast Caps
Description: A highly palatable electrolyte, vitamin and acidified energy product formulated to offer support during times of dehydration.
Bovine BlueLite® helps maintain body fluids and supports water intake. Use during dehydration events - heat stress, winter dysentery, bacterial diarrhea, and pneumonia. Ideal for show cattle. 
Learn more about BlueLite