No matter the region, production system or breed, dairy cattle appear to suffer from six very common problems related to the intensive conditions under which they are raised and kept throughout their productive lives. These six common problems, which often are directly related to imbalanced nutrition, are outlined below:
- Rumen acidosis is the major problem as we try to feed dairy cows the highest amount of cereals and the lowest possible of roughage in an effort to increase energy intake. This results in rumen bacteria imbalance leading to acidocis, which can be resolved through rebalanced nutrition and certain additives.
- Peri-parturition problems are not always related to nutrition, at least not directly. But certain nutrients (readily available glucose, vitamins, trace minerals and certain salts) may help prevent or even reverse the negative effects often associated with the period around parturition, always along with proper veterinary care.
- Hoof health issues will remain a problem as long as cows are kept in dry lots as opposed to open grazing areas. Here, we can use certain nutrients to improve the structure and strength of the hoof, but for visible results we need a long intervention period.
- Summer heat stress is common to all animals raised away from their ancestral environments, especially when their productivity is high. Here, nutrition plays a role in causing and alleviating this problem; it is a double-edged sword.
- Fat concentration versus milk yield is a battle every dairy nutritionist is called to give every day as these two go naturally but not impossibly against each other. This problem is often complicated by frequent changes on requirements by milk plants as their goals/products evolve over time.
- Reproductive failure, or when a cow does not conceive after several attempts, results in the loss of a valuable asset that must be sold as meat at a discount. Keeping prolificacy high is a priority and it can be boosted by proper lifelong nutrition and specific additives.