The three phases of transition: How to achieve problem-free calving and a good start to lactation

17 March 2021
4 minutes

Transition between lactations in dairy farming requires attention to three key phases: drying-off, dry period, and early-fresh. Each phase demands specific management for optimal cow health and performance.

As a dairy farmer, you know the importance of the transition between lactations. Each phase plays a key role, and each needs to be handled differently. With a successful three-phase approach, you and your herd will reap the benefits, from one lactation to the next, and the next, and the next

1. The drying-off phase: The final weeks of lactation

The final weeks of one lactation are vital in creating a good basis for the next. The objective is to monitor the cow’s physical condition in order to make important decisions – such as when to start the dry period, whether to use antibiotics once it begins and whether to change cows’ rations during the second half of the lactation. A Body Condition Score (BCS) of 3.5 is optimal for drying off. It is also advisable to trim hooves preventively during this period.

2. The dry period phase: The six weeks of recovery

The dry period gives udder tissue a chance to recover before the next lactation. It therefore needs to be managed well, which means deciding which animals to treat with antibiotics, using the right drying-off products and providing good hygiene and housing. The right ration during this period can shorten labour and prevent transition-related health problems. In addition, it is essential to make sure your cows have plenty of dry matter intake (DMI) from forages.

3. The early-fresh phase: The early weeks of the new lactation

The aim now is to cut out complications at the start of lactation. The DMI – kept as high as possible in phases 2 and 3 – should increase, reaching a maximum level early in this stage. Providing a well-balanced complete feed with roughage will ensure high milk and milk solids production. By understanding its different phases, you can manage the transition more effectively, and improve not only your cows’ performance but also their health – a win-win.

Learn more about Prelacto Dry Period Plan