Dairy farmers share their experiences

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Derek Dutton

Milk fever can be a huge cost to any herd, getting on top of it with CalFix has been remarkable and has virtually eliminated the challenge. 

Derek Dutton, Farndon, Chester.

CalFix knocks milk fever on the head - click for full story

Having seen more cases of milk fever than he would have liked last year, Farndon, Chester-based dairy producer Derek Dutton was running out of ways to tackle the problem.

“It was really getting on top of us and we would have been using at least a case of calcium bottles a week at its peak. Nothing we did seemed to solve it, despite trying long acting boluses and calcium crystals in water troughs.

“That was on top of a specialist dry cow feed. But nothing slowed down the incidence of milk fever and it later turned out that the dry cow feed we were using was based on an outdated formulation,” he explains.

As a result of a conversation with David Slater of NWF Agriculture, Mr Dutton felt CalFix might be worth a try. “Having tried everything else we had nowhere left to go.

“It's been a revolution for us and since starting to use it last October we haven't even used a case of calcium and haven't seen any milk fever.”

Mr Dutton says the trick as far as he's concerned is to ensure at-risk dry cows are fed CalFix for at least three weeks prior to calving. “You have to have the ration right as well; we've been feeding our dry cows about 30kg/head per day of a simple TMR containing grass silage and 6kg/head of straw. This gets the rumen going well and we then feed 3kg/head/day of the dry cow nuts with CalFix, sprinkled on top of the TMR.”

And with cows now at grass Mr Dutton says he's following the same routine, bringing dry cows back in to the buildings for three weeks prior to calving. “We pick out any second lactation and older cows as they tend to be most at risk and feed them CalFix on top of their TMR once a day and it's working well.

“We’re milking 360 cows on an all year round calving system and, while feeding a transition feed such as CalFix isn’t a cheap option, nor is having cows going down with milk fever. The treatment costs coupled with the lost yield and the potential loss of a cow are far more expensive than CalFix and knowing we’ve got things right for the dry cows takes a lot of worry out of the day too.”

At the same time, Mr Dutton says that he has more cows with a healthy, well prepared uterus for the next insemination now than previously. “That’s another major bonus too, cutting out potential vet costs and also meaning cows are cycling earlier, helping keep the calving pattern tight.”

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Barry Worth

In May alone we calved more than 40 cows without problems and we’ve not used a single bottle of calcium in that time either. 

Barry Worth, Marton, Macclesfield.

Dry cow management issues overcome with CalFix - click for full story

Milking 250 cows at Marton, Macclesfield, Barry Worth and family had been experiencing a number of issues with dry cow management for some time, including struggling with retained cleansings, ‘twisted stomachs’, milk fever cases and condition loss in the all year round calving herd.

“No matter what we did nothing seemed to change things for the better,” explains Mr Worth.

“At the worst point I’d say about 25% of cows were failing to calve without a transition issue, including some with milk fever. This was obviously having a big impact on both herd productivity and profitability. Not only was it adding to vet costs, but it also meant cows were taking longer to get back in calf and it was hitting yields too.”

Mr Worth says that milk fever was an underlying problem in the herd and adding to concerns over dry cow management. “We had a bit of a problem with this and there’s no doubt our move to using CalFix, a dietetic feed to reduce the risk of milk fever, has helped overcome it.

“In May alone we calved more than 40 cows without problems and we’ve not used a single bottle of calcium in that time either, whereas before we would have been giving about 25% of cows a bottle of calcium just to be on the safe side.”

Feeding has been a straightforward affair for Mr Worth over winter, with 3kg/head of dry cow nuts containing CalFix sprinkled on top of the cows’ usual ration once a day. “For the summer calvers we’re grazing them on a fairly tight paddock and offering them ad lib straw at the same time. They then have 3kg/head of the CalFix-containing dry cow feed in a trough once a day and they eat it up well.

“The important thing we’ve found is to ensure we pull out the closer to calving dry cows and manage them separately for at least three weeks pre-calving. They need to be on CalFix for that period to get the maximum benefit from it.

“It's been pretty amazing just how well it’s cleared up the issues we were suffering from and while it is an added cost on the feed side of things, it’s certainly cheaper than the costs of a lost cow or the delay to breeding we were seeing.

“It’s also taken a lot of worry out of the day to day routine which is invaluable, particularly with milk prices where they are.”

Mr Worth adds that importantly the cows have looked well all the time he’s been feeding CalFix. “It’s certainly helped keep them in good order and that goes a long way to easier calvings and fewer post-calving issues such as milk fever.”