With markets being what they are today at $15.56 per cwt (at the time of my drafting this article per the CME), we in the dairy industry need all the help we can get reducing our cost of production and increasing per animal efficiency. One recent article I ran across today in DairyToday talks about doing just that. Kansas State recently did a study on utilizing anti-inflammatories on cows immediately after calving. They found that the use of anti-inflammatories increased production by as much as 7-10% within that lactation – that’s a lot of milk!
So, should we be giving anti-inflammatories such as flunixin or aspirin to all cows after calving? Maybe. I don’t know of a lot of studies that are similar to this one and I think that a repeated study is always a good idea to validate findings. However, I think it is safe to say that pain definitely can affect dry matter intakes in periparturient cows and can certainly cause an associated bottleneck in production due to that reduced DMI.
That being said, not only is it important from a production viewpoint, but certainly also in the consumer’s eyes. We all know that there are increasing inquiries from the public on how our meat and milk is raised and a concern that it is done humanely and pain-free. I would encourage you to think about what we can do on-farm to mitigate pain for the cow. Are we finding cows with painful conditions quickly? Are those conditions treated appropriately and per your veterinarian’s recommendations? I would challenge you to critically think about these questions.
It would obviously be a lot easier if the cow looked down at you from the parlor and said, “Hey! I hurt today!” That would be great, but cows are expert hiders of pain as they are a prey species and everything in their being tells them to hide their pain. Despite this, there are different things you can do on farm to help identify cows with painful conditions and your veterinarian can help you tailor you transition cow screening program to help fit your specific farm’s needs and employee abilities.
If we at the VMC can help you with your transition cow program, please don’t hesitate to ask one of our team members for advice. We are here to help! 1-800-522-3276.