Transition Cow Management

Calving time is stressful for the dairy cow’s body. From four weeks before calving to four weeks after calving (called the transition period), the cow undergoes a series of dramatic metabolic changes that allow her body to adapt to the challenges of calving, lactation and re-breeding.

It is estimated that 80% of a lactating dairy cow's health problems occur in the first four weeks after calving, during the transition period.

Transition cow management has been one of the most significant advances in dairy nutrition and production worldwide in the last 20 years. It provides farmers with a major opportunity to improve cow health, milk production and reproductive performance.

Benefits of good transition cow management

Depending on the approach used, a transition feeding program could cost between $20 and $60 per cow but return a net benefit of up to $200 or more per cow, even after additional labour and feed costs are accounted for.

Many Australian dairy farmers have implemented successful transition feeding programs pre-calving and reported dramatic reductions in milk fever and other cow health problems around calving, as well as improvements in milk production and fertility.

Not only is effective transition nutrition good for cows and the farm's bottom line, it also reduces calving hassles for the people on the farm.

Feeding systems or concentrate feeding rates do not have to be change when a transition feeding program is implemented. There are transition feeding options suitable for all different feeding systems. Any improvement in transition feeding management will reap benefits.

Implementing a transition feeding program

Dairy Australia has developed a series of resources to help farmers implement a successful transition feeding program.

Animal Health
Fertility and AI
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Cow health problems at calving tally sheet

InCalf tally sheet to be used during calving to keep track of cow health problems.
Animal Health
Milk Quality
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Transition program review worksheet

A worksheet to monitor and review transition cow management.
Animal Health
Fertility and AI
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Checklist for transition cow management

Use this checklist to help you implement thekey steps for a successful transition period.
Animal Health
Fertility and AI

Those unsure where to start or seeking tailored advice for their own farm can get in touch with one of Dairy Australia’s specially trained transition cow management advisors.

Face-to-face learning

Dairy Australia offers free opportunities for face-to-face learning on calving and transition cow management suitable for farm owners, managers, employees and service providers. These include:

  • Low-stress calving discussion groups
  • Transition cow management workshops

Contact your RDP to register your interest in attending these discussion groups or workshops.

Low-stress calving discussion groups

Low-stress calving discussion groups are held on a host farm where participants discuss a range of topics with other farmers and industry experts, including:

  • Milk fever and other cow health problems around calving time
  • When to act on cow health problems at calving time
  • The link between diet, blood calcium and cow health problems
  • Ways in which cows’ diets can be manipulated pre-calving to reduce these problems

These discussions groups give participants a good foundation of knowledge to register for one-day transition cow management course.

Transition cow management workshops

Transition cow management workshops are a one-day course which enables participants to:

  • Assess the health of a herd at calving time and identify health problems which can be improved through a transition feeding program
  • Describe the various approaches to transition feeding programs
  • Outline the influence of diet on the risk of developing milk fever and other cow health problems
  • Identify the dietary requirements of heifers and cows during the transition period
  • Formulate a transition cow feeding program for a farm business
  • Implement a transition cow feeding program for a farm business
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of a transition cow feeding program in reducing cow health problems and improving milk production and reproductive performance

Transition Cow Management Technical Review

This Transition Cow Management Technical Review (2nd ed) is the most extensive review of transition cow management ever undertaken, drawing on more than 300 peer-reviewed scientific papers. It provides an up-to-date technical resource for nutritional professionals, veterinarians and farm advisers on the many aspects of transition cow management and serves as the technical foundation for additional adviser and farmer information resources being developed by Dairy Australia.

Transition Cow Management Advisor Webinar (8 June 2021)
Fact Sheet

Transition cow management professional review

A review for nutritional professionals, veterinarians and farm advisers on transition cow management.
Animal Health
Fertility and AI
Transition cow management for dairy farmers

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