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    Diet is critical to cow health in weeks before calving

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    By George Munene

    If you are looking to run a professional dairy enterprise, steaming-up is a non-negotiable practice two to three weeks before calving in delivering the following benefits to your cow:

    1. Improved milk production
    2. Avoids calving complications
    3. Maintains and improves body condition
    4. improves chances of conception on the next insemination

    What feeds to give during steaming up?

    High energy feed

    These are mainly carbohydrates and sugars. If not given in sufficient amounts the cow burns her own fats to produce the required energy leading to a toxic condition called ketosis.

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    Ketosis is a periparturient condition, that is, it usually occurs around the calving period. It’s characterised by a drop in milk production, diminished appetite (especially refusal to eat concentrate and grain based feed), weight loss, a dull coat and smelly breath and/or milk.

    Give 2 kilograms of dairy a day until your cow calves down.

    Minerals

    A few days to calving there’s a significant demand for calcium used up in the calf’s bone formation and in the production of colostrum.

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    The mother cannot normally sustain this high demand and many Kenyan farmers opt to buy direct sources of calcium for their cows. It is, however, advisable to give magnesium: it induces the mother to mobilise bone calcium into its bloodstream. Bone calcium isn’t mobilised if the cow is fed on direct dietary calcium. A cow fed on direct sources of calcium can suffer from milk fever–a condition caused by calcium deficiency. The bones will be weaker than usual post calving, this can be replenished by mixing in calcium minerals in fodder.

    High protein feed.

    A cow’s rumen does manufacture its own amino acids, and increased carb content is far more important during steaming up.

    Your cow should still be fed on a ration of quality roughage, with at least 12% crude protein.

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