Dry cow minerals

Dry cows should now be on minerals to accompany their silage. The purpose of feeding minerals is to supplement what is lacking in grass silage and build up reserves of essential vitamins and minerals in advance of calving and the next lactation, when these reserves will be called upon.

There are a number of options, such as supplementing water, feeding powder minerals and giving a bolus. The powder minerals are probably the best in terms of the breadth of vitamins and minerals that are included.

The downside is that these need to be fed out manually, daily, whereas the bolus and water dosing is either a once-off or done automatically.

Prices tend to follow specification and inclusion rates.

The main ingredients impacting on price are phosphorus and magnesium levels and also the inclusion rate of copper and vitamins A, D3 and E.

Iodine is a very important element, but its inclusion rate in minerals has decreased in line with recommendations – but an increasing number of herds are experiencing iodine deficiency.

This is most commonly expressed as a high rate of stillbirths, particularly in first-calving heifers. Minerals should be low in calcium and have at least 12,000 units per 100g of vitamin D.

If feeding cows twice a day, give minerals twice a day, to ensure every cow gets it. If all cows feed at the one time, then once-a-day feeding of minerals should suffice.

Grass data

Now is a good time to review farm performance in terms of grass growth. This is such an important measure of financial performance, but it can sometimes be overlooked.

It was clear from the Teagasc dairy conference earlier in the year that grass grown and eaten, plus the percentage of grass in the cows’ diet, have the biggest impact on profit.

Farmers who measure grass regularly (at least 30 times per year) will have good data on what each paddock is growing. Spring and autumn growth is much more valuable than summer growth.

Newer varieties are much better in this area than older varieties. Spring growth will be determined by when it was grazed, with paddocks grazed earlier tending to grow a lot more than paddocks grazed late, so keep this in mind when comparing.

The other thing to look at is clover content and nitrogen use. I don’t think we can ignore the fact that reducing chemical nitrogen in the absence of sufficient clover does impact grass growth.


Thin cows, lame cows, early-calving cows and late-calving cows all need special attention. Cows will leave the system for a myriad of reasons, many outside of farmers’ control.

However, farmers that manage cows well tend to have to lower replacement rates, more cow retention, more mature herds and better overall performance.

Even though cows are dry and not walking as much lame cows are still lame and will need to be treated. They are more likely to be bullied and in low body condition score (BCS).

Early calving cows have only weeks to go before calving, so good-quality silage, cubicle hygiene and plenty of feed and lying space is important. The same is true for thin cows.

For late-calving and fat cows the risk is getting too fat, so consider restricting their silage.