A thin cow or heifer can be a big problem if they’re due to calf soon.
It can lead to weak cows at calving time and less vigorous calves to boot, meaning an increased risk of mortality and a smaller selling margin later.
After the actual calving it can lead to a prolonged period before the cow comes back into heat.
Your natural instinct may be to load them with feed in the final few weeks before calving, but that isn’t the right move.
According to Teagasc, 75-80% of the calf’s eventual birth size is formed in the final two months before it is born.
So in the final three months a much larger proportion of the nutrients the cow is consuming are being diverted towards the unborn calf.
Additionally, the cow isn’t able to eat as much when the calf is growing within the cow, because the cow’s stomach has less space to expand.
Because of these factors, overfeeding thin cows too late will have little effect on the condition of the cow, however, it could have a big effect on the calf.
The ideal solution if you have thin cows, is to catch them early, and your best chance to do this is when you take them in for housing.
When they’re indoors, you can make it easier for them to compete by moving them into their own pen away from the larger cows.
You can also control the quality of what they’re taking on board, and examine how much they’re eating.
It is at this point thin cows and heifers should be front-loaded feed, and gradually tapered off as they reach a satisfactory level of condition and before the calf absorbs most of what she’s eating.
How do you deal with a thin cow at calving? Let us know below in the comments!