Lead feeding and leaky teats

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Many dairy farmers with cows due to calve in the autumn are already preparing for the busy weeks of early lactation. And increasing numbers of farmers are using lead feed rations to help the cows' rumen to adjust from the maintenance diet fed in the dry paddock to the ration fed in early lactation.

Dairy Australia's InCalf program leader, Dr Barry Zimmermann, has some tips for managing ‘leaky teats' which can sometimes be an unexpected side effect from a lead feed ration.

"In some cows, milk will leak from the teats for up to a week before calving. This carries a mastitis risk but is it easily managed," Dr Zimmermann said.

To help reduce the risk of mastitis for springer cows:

Use a teat sealant at dry off as part of your dry cow treatment plan (discuss with your vet);

Milk cows that start dripping milk or develop an obviously swollen udder (udder oedema);

Ensure conditions for calving are clean and dry at all times, if possible;

If the springer cows are being fed in the dairy, spray teats routinely each time they are fed.

"And don't forget, cows leaking milk prior to calving will have lower quality colostrum by the time the calf is born. Provide these calves with colostrum from another cow, or stored colostrum", he said.

Feeding springers a balanced transition diet for the three weeks leading up to calving has proven benefits in boosting milk production and herd fertility. But the most valued immediate benefit is reduced time, stress and cost of treating sick cows in early lactation.

"It really is worth the time, cost and effort involved in setting up a transition management program for your dairy herd," Dr Zimmermann said.