Returning fresh cows to positive energy balance as fast as you can after calving is the end goal of any transition program. We do this by feeding a well-balanced, consistent particle length pre-fresh ration to maximize dry matter intake. At the same time, we provide a clean, comfortable, well-ventilated facility and try not to overcrowd this group. They calve and we repeat these same principles in the fresh pen.
Then all the daily variables happen such as feeder deviation, forage quality changes, employees not performing as well as we would like, cold weather, hot weather, humidity, etc. How do we give ourselves an advantage to overcome these obstacles?
One way many of our customers take the next step in bettering their transition program is adding Hydro-Lac in their pre-fresh and fresh cow programs all year round. In 2014, a field demonstration trial¹ was done on 17 Minnesota herds from January to July. The trial results ultimately resulted in an increase of 979 lbs. of Fresh ME and a 6.6:1 return on investment. When I joined Form-A-Feed last March, I wanted to conduct a study that proved Hydro-Lac increased fresh cow performance.
We asked a 450-cow dairy in central Minnesota to use 0.33 lbs. of Hydro-Lac in their fresh pen from the middle of July 2016 to middle of September 2016. We changed nothing in the nutrition except for the addition of Hydro-Lac. Fresh cows were in this pen for 14-30 days. The results we saw were incredible.
I compared all cows that calved in July-September 2015 to the cows that calved July-September 2016. There was a 7 pound increase at week 4 in milk production over cows that calved in 2015. Why is this significant? A lactation data set based on 3.5 million cows published by the University of Wisconsin shows that a 1 lb. increase of week 4 milk will result in approximately 405 lbs. of milk over the entire lactation. So, this means that the cows that calved in the summer of 2016 that were fed Hydro-Lac will have the potential to produce 2,837 lbs. of milk more than the cows that calved in the same time in 2015 without Hydro-Lac.²
All of this from 0.33 lbs. of Hydro-Lac during the fresh period? When I sit back and think about this, it makes sense why it would work. Hydro-Lac helps tissues preserve glucose and keeps fluids in the cells. It has antioxidant immune support properties, and quick sources of energy for the cow to metabolize during this stressful time. All this makes cows more hydrated, which will lead to an opportunity for higher dry matter intake and thus lead to quicker return to positive energy balance.
This small investment for 14-21 days can be worth over 2,800 lbs. of milk over their lactation. What can you do outside of Hydro-Lac that you can get that big of a return? I am a believer in it now and have seen incredible responses on dairies all year round.
For details or a report summary of this and other fresh cow studies involving Hydro-Lac, click on the whitepapers below (¹´²). Better yet, ask your CHS Larsen Cooperative Representative about their experiences with Hydro-Lac in transition programs all year round.
¹Kohls, et.al. 2014 HL#1501
²Kinches, et.al. 2017 HL#1607