Fresh cow concept

Negative energy balance is the major issue with fresh cow management. Attempting to combat the natural tendency of cows to utilise body reserves or ‘milk off their backs’ to achieve target milk yields until feed intake catches up with energy demand is the challenge facing all producers.

  • The basis of Fresh Cow Concept is to aim to realign the timing of peak milk production and peak dry matter intake. Therefore, minimising or eliminating negative energy balance in early lactation.
  • Aim to maximise cows forage intake in the first 4-6 weeks of lactation, therefore reducing likelihood of metabolic disorders post calving.
  • Due to the lower protein intake, the cows peak milk production will be delayed slightly. This delay promotes a higher dry matter intake in the fresh period, maximising forage intakes and therefore significantly reducing the depth and effect of the negative energy balance.
  • Feeding programmes should be planned to minimise loss in body condition to approximately 0.5 condition score units or less in early lactation.
  • Ensure cows have access to ad libitum fresh feed at all times with adequate feed space that all cows can comfortably feed at the same time if so desired.
  • Fresh cows should be offered high quality grass silage. The inclusion of alternative forages (maize, whole crop wheat) will also promote forage intakes.