Warning over UK cows too fat to calve easily

Agricultural experts have warned that last year's excellent summer could make cows too fat, causing calving problems.

Cows are overfat approaching calving time
Cows are overfat approaching calving time

A downside of last year’s excellent summer is the risk that cows are overfat as they approach calving time.

So says Dr Basil Lowman ofSAC Consulting, who explainedthat the cold spring was followed by a warm season with good grass growth producing excellent quality silage and hay. If farmers have not adjusted their feeding regime to account for this increased nutrition, overfat cows could have calving problems.

Dr Lowman said: “Some producers are concerned about the condition of their cows and the potential for a much higher risk of calving difficulties when calving starts in a month’s time.”

As all producers of suckled calves know, difficulties at calving time are often linked to both the genetics of the cow and her calf or, more importantly, by the management of the cow and her condition at calving.

Producers agree that calving difficulties incur major costs, for example from the calf that is slow to get going and hence is at more risk of disease and even death. Calving difficulties can lead to increased infertility and a larger number not in-calf.

In extreme cases it can lead to the premature culling of cows at well below their potential market value.

The advice from Dr Lowman and his SAC Consulting colleagues is for suckled calf producers with herds due to calf this spring to set aside an hour, preferably with a friend, neighbour or their vet, to walk among their cows and discuss how fit they really think they are.

The objective is to identify which cows, if any, need to be slimmed down urgently.

Dr Lowman advised: “If there are a proportion of obese cows, with rings of fat clearly visible around their tail-head, then these should be drawn out into a separate group and put on to a well-balanced, straw-based ration to encourage them to lose as much fat as possible prior to calving.

“This may seem just extra costs and hassle but compared with severe calving difficulties, caesareans or even casualties it will be time and money extremely well invested.”

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