Jonathan Townsend, DVM, PhD, DABVP
Milk fat depression is a common finding of veterinarians and nutritionists on dairy farms, especially during the warmer summer months. Troubleshooting cases of milk fat depression can be challenging as often there are a number of causes that are contributing to the problem.
Providing properly balanced and successful dairy rations can be a challenging job. One must track a large number of nutrients and make sure that they present in adequate levels yet not in excess where they can lead to reduced performance or animal health.
I have had the great opportunity to work professionally in a variety of positions including private practice veterinarian, extension veterinarian, and tech service nutritionist for a major feed company.
There are many ways to feed a transition dairy cow, specifically a prefresh cow. They include low-energy, high-forage diets that are identical to the diet fed far-off dry cows, the far-off dry cow ration with additional additives such as anionic salts or rumen-protected choline, or a separate prefresh ration with an energy level intermediate between the far-off dry cow ration and the fresh cow diet.
In the words of H.D. Hoard, "... this is the Home of Mothers. Treat each cow as a Mother should be treated." We need to take this thought to heart as we think about how we should treat the new moms and moms-to-be on our dairy farms. These cows are at great risk due to the great physiologic, metabolic, and management changes they go through in a relatively short time period.
Intensive milk or milk replacer programs, also known as accelerated growth programs, enhanced growth programs, or perhaps most properly biologically appropriate feeding programs have had a great influence on bottle calf nutrition programs on U.S. dairies in the past 10 years.