This months linked article's:


The dry period is a critical time in the management of the modern dairy cow. It is essential that the cow is properly prepared for the subsequent lactation. During this period the cow will rebuild her mammary tissue, replenish her body reserves, and condition her digestive system to achieve high intakes in early lactation. Below we have listed the risk factors:

Tick if they apply to you

  • One group of cows for the whole dry period
  • Heifers and cows on transition for less than 21 days
  • Inadequate vitamins and minerals in the diet
  • Out of sight out of mind
  • Diet short of effective fibre
  • Diet lacking in energy and protein
  • Weight loss before calving
  • Forages too high in specific mineral: e.g. potassium
  • Pre-calving diet different from post-calving diet
  • Poor cow comfort
  • Inadequate clean water
  • Inadequate feed space
  • Unpalatable stale feed presented to cows
  • Feed not available around the clock
  • Lame cows
  • Cows too fat or too thin



The risk is not just milk fever, but mastitis, lameness and infertility.

Each farm is unique, our aim is to work alongside the farmer to improve the overall health of the cow. By achieving this aim a substantial amount of money can be saved by reducing vet visits and managing mastitis, fertility and lameness. If the cow is fed properly the fertility, mastitis and lameness problems can be controlled, thus improving the overall health of the animal, which will set the foundation for higher yields and better milk quality.

Aims of the early dry period:

Maintain dietary fibre content, but not necessarily with extreme levels of straw in the diet. Limit energy intake to prevent excessive calf growth but ensure that the level is adequate and the diet contains some fermentable starch. Avoid excessive crude protein, however, this can be difficult on a grazed grass system. Meet vitamin and mineral requirements. This is rarely done, some cows get mineral blocks but we have found that some competitors blocks are low specification and inadequate for the job.

Aims of the transition or close up diet

To acclimatise the rumen to post calving feeds including concentrate sources. The end products of starch digestion are absorbed through the rumen wall via papillae. If the cow is fed a coarse, high straw diet in the dry period, these papillae are reduced in size by up to 70%. After calving, when high starch diets are fed, the lack of absorptive papillae cause an increase in lactate hence rumen acidosis and laminitis. You get the most sole ulcers and white line disease, two and three months after calving. These lesions take this period to develop and the cause can be tracked back to management at calving. Diet can contribute not only to laminitis but also difficult calvings, retained cleansings and mastitis. Please remember these other factors can also be reduced by correct dry cow management as can lameness. When feeding maize or wholecrop to high yielding dairy cows these forage should be in the transition diet also.

To provide adequate protein nutrition to enhance the immune system, improve colostrum quality and build up protein reserves.

To maintain dry matter intake of feed and improve fertility.

There is a sharp decline in the feed intake before calving but then the requirement increases rapidly when calving has taken place. A high density diet is needed and high fibre low energy feeds should be minimised, long fibre is important however at this stage. Extra dry matter intake in the dry period is important, as this carries through to early lactation. This can well be 2kg / day more which is about 4 litres of extra milk at peak and it also leads to reduced body weight loss and improved fertility. Cows in good energy balance at calving will resume heat activity much earlier and stronger, and these are the cows that are easy to get in calf. But remember fertility, the eggs are being developed in the dry period and need the correct nutrition to be viable at the time of service.

To provide adequate vitamin and minerals.

These are vital in meeting the aims of the dry period. Many dry cow feeds are well below their requirements for minerals or vitamins. An example is vitamin E requirements. The modern dairy cow should have at least 1,000 iu Vit E / day. Does your dry cow diet provide this?


  • Trying to slim dry cows in the dry period
  • Low quality forage
  • Poor cow comfort
  • Roughing" it approach
  • Low vitamins and minerals
  • Mouldy feeds
  • One dry group
  • Wrong diet formulation
  • The use of milking cow minerals in a dry cow diet.

The importance of minerals and vitamins during the dry period

Vitamin A

A constant dietary supply is essential for the general well being of the animal, it has a vital role in growth, reproduction, resistance to infections and parasitic diseases. It is essential for skin development, normal vision and the development of bones in growing animals.

Vitamin D

Synthesised in the skin of farm animals through the action of solar ultra violet radiation, associated with calcium and phosphorus metabolism, deficiency indirectly gives rise to rickets.

Vitamin E

Anti sterility vitamin, deficiency in young animals gives rise to muscular dystrophy or white muscle disease, main role is prevention of damage to cell membrane.


The correct balance of Calcium and Phosphorus has been applied and protected forms of Selenium, Copper and Zinc provide the strongest binding combination together with Cobalt, Iodine, Manganese and Magnesium for optimum health.

Common problems often related to the Dry Period


50% of clinical mastitis develops in the dry period. If the immune system is poor, then cows are likely to get infections which is usually down to poor vitamin and mineral status. Excessive weight effects liver and immune system post calving


SARA (sub acute rumen acidosis) is linked to pre/post calving diet causing laminitis. Horn growth poor in dry period linked to hormone changes. Supplements such as protected copper, protected zinc and biotin will improve horn growth. Infections such as mastitis, whites all can contribute to laminitis.


Dry cow diet promoting high intakes will increase intakes post calving, reduces liveweight loss at peak yield. Evidence of more than 50Kg (1 condition score) liveweight loss reduces infertility. Good dry cow diet stops dry cows losing weight. Follicle development in dry period linked to egg quality at service. Link with mineral availability in dry period in areas of mineral lock up) e.g.: copper). Reducing retained cleansings and risk of whites very important in fertility. Calf survival linked to vitamin E, selenium and iodine.

At this time of year, the dry cows most neglected are the far off ones. They need some effective mineral supplementation if they are to calve down with adequate levels. The one of the easiest way is to feed quality mineral buckets.

During the Dry period we recommend our:

EXCEL PRE-CALVER ROLLS - If you suffer from retained cleansing - this is the product for you.


DRY COW BUCKETS - available in either 20kg or 100kgs


Wholecrop Silage - Making the Most of Difficult Weather

A little wholecrop is safely in, but most is still waiting for a dry day. The wet dull weather tends to slow down maturation, but even so winter wheats could be getting a bit old, and the spring crops will soon be ready. Here are a few angles you might not have fully thought through or understood.

How & Where am I putting it?

Although most is cut with a self-propelled, don't forget you can also use your own trailed machine, or forage wagon, or a baler. Whichever you choose be careful you don't chop too long, the older the crop is the tighter it needs to be packed in. Wholecrop is not very tolerant of cobbled up clamps, it can go off for fun if not compacted and sealed well. If you are baling beware the rats, they love it.

It's really all about excluding air effectively?

Keep the chop length 1 inch max to aid compaction. Structural fibre is no good to you if it's mouldy.

Roll, Roll and Roll some more, but not with dual wheels or flotation tyres. If in doubt get another tractor out.

The best top seal is clampfilm, Side sheeting and enveloping is vital, but don't forget also to seal the base of the ramp. A few scoops of muck or sand along the edge of the sheet will do nicely.

Long Shallow ramp please, with layered packing.

On the top use touching tyres or straw bales, but the best top weight and seal to the wholecrop can be achieved by putting a few feet of damp grass silage over the top before sheeting. Beware the lines of gravel bags on the top so inconsistent top weight, a recipe for waste.

So what about Additive on this Dryer Fermented Wholecrop?

Most reputable products including the Double Action Ecocorn we sell are not recommended for wholecrop above 50-55% Dry Matter. Not because suddenly the product stops working, but because you are less likely to get the result you want. So how can you increase the odds in your favour if you decide to press on at 50-65% DM.

Ensure the contractor is milling the grain to assist compaction, release nutrients and reduce waste through the animal.

Read again the section above about excluding air effectively.

Choose a chemically based product. Generally they are dose responsive so for example with Double Action Ecocorn or Ecocorn Varicool you can safely apply at twice or three times standard application rate.

But what about the cost I hear you say? It need cost little more to apply a higher rate because you could focus the product use towards the top of the pit where you get the most waste, rather than the bottom for example.

To really play safe?

Once above 55% DM don't ferment, but aim for alkali preservation by applying GP Feeds Feed Grade Urea or derivative product.

Be sure you understand the costs, which can be over 10 times that of fermenting.

Be aware that this urea treated wholecrop is quite brittle, breaks up easily during feeding so may do little for structural fibre.




Gareth or Rachel (Office)
01948 661602 Fax 01948 871776