The Transition Dry Cow – the key to the next lactation

By John Lawrence, Senior Mineral Supplements Technical Manager

How we manage and feed the cow in the weeks up to calving can have a significant impact on the success of the following lactation and getting her back in calf.

Attention to detail on diet, body condition score (BCS), supplementation and her environment will all play a significant role in the outcome of the following lactation and fertility.

Correct BCS is important as this will be your guide to assess body fat reserves, particularly with regard to the impact of negative energy balance in early lactation. The change in Body Condition Score is more important than the absolute value, so scoring should be done regularly. 

The following is a guide to target BCS:

Target BCS at stage of lactation

The Liver

Plays a key role in energy and fat mobilisation. The liver is one of the most critical organs in the body as it produces glucose from volatile fatty acids (VFAs) from rumen digestion (hepatic gluconeogenesis); the liver also metabolises protein and urea. In early lactation, high-yielding cows often exhibit negative energy balance, causing the cows to ‘milk off their backs’, liberating body fat. This release of fat builds up in the liver and reduces ‘hepatic function’.Consequently, fatty liver not only compromises energy metabolism but other hepatic functions including immunity. Correct feeding in late lactation and the dry period will improve liver function.

• Ensure correct body condition score to avoid excessive weight loss
• Feed bypass starch or propylene glycol to provide glucose sources which reduce fat mobilisation.
• Increase starch levels to provide more propionate which leads to less fat mobilisation

Research continues to show choline and its supply in adequate levels is an essential component for metabolism and has several key metabolic functions, including hepatic fat metabolism. Whilst choline is not a new nutrient, research is showing when supplied at the right level, as a consequence of improved liver function, it can affect an increasing number of factors around calving and the subsequent lactation, including:
• Help to reduce the incidence and impact of ketosis
• Milk yield over the coming lactation
• Quality and quantity of colostrum
• Increased liveweight gain of heifer calves through to calving

Choline - a limiting nutrient for transition dry cows

Choline is implicated in many other functions like cell wall structure and nerve function as well as critical for efficient liver function. Many nutritionists are now considering choline as an essential part of many dairy rations.

Choline is a component required for the synthesis of a specific type of fat (VLDL) which is needed to export fatty acids from the liver.

During periods of energy stress choline assists in reducing fat build-up in the liver, contributing to reduced incidence of ketosis and fostering improved liver function.

Better liver function facilitates enhanced nutrient utilisation supporting greater milk production and helping to promote improved health and reproduction.

This helps to reduce the incidence of fatty liver seen when cows start to milk off their backs, thus supporting energy metabolism in early lactation.

Choline is susceptible to rumen degradation, so it is essential to use a high-quality Rumen Protected Choline (RPC). However, it is important to ensure the choline you use is not so highly protected that its availability in the intestine of the animal is too low or not available at all.

Mole Valley Farmers use a unique high bioavailability source of rumen-protected choline in Trans-CHOL™. The active ingredient in Trans-CHOL™ utilises a unique technology which uses a C3 model to produce a next-generation encapsulated choline.

For more on Trans-CHOL or transition dry cow supplements, speak to your Mole Valley Feed Solutions advisor, ring the Mineral Line on 01278 420481 or email