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Optimising Milk Production, Condition & FertilityOptimising Milk Production, Condition & Fertility

The start of the milking season is an eventful time for dairy cows. Returning from grazing, transition from a dry cow diet to a fresh cow production diet, calving and start of production are all risk factors. Feed conditions at the start of lactation are often difficult, grass quality can be low, available pasture can be low, weather can be adverse etc. In the mean time we expect our cows to produce milk, to peak at an acceptable level and to get pregnant as soon as possible after our planned Start of Mating.

Our modern dairy cows have a high genetic pressure to produce milk. Even in difficult nutritional conditions they will produce, sacrificing body fat reserves and in the end even body protein to maintain production. The only point where they will let us down is in getting pregnant! Safety systems in the hormonal household will prevent these cows to cycle and to get pregnant, in fact a natural way to survive adverse conditions.

The high number of non cycling cows at the start of the mating season in New Zealand is partly due to unbalanced rations in grass based dairy systems. Feeding ruminants is feeding rumen bugs! Most of the nutrients fed to our dairy cows are broken down in the rumen. Rumen bugs will break down carbohydrates, like plant cell walls, starch and sugars, to obtain energy. They will break down protein into smaller particles and ammonia. Rumen bugs have only one aim in life: to multiply! They will multiply if conditions are right, that is when protein particles and energy are available at the same time. The life time of a rumen bug is limited. In the end they wash out of the rumen into the intestinal tract. The high acidity in the abomasum will kill the bugs and will make their protein available for digestion in the small intestines of the cow. The protein obtained from digested rumen bugs is the most important protein source for dairy cows.

Spring grass is high in protein, but low in fibre and low in carbohydrates. A ration containing mainly grass pasture is far too rich in protein, and lacks rumen-available energy. Rumen bugs will lack energy to use all the available protein. Excess protein is broken down into ammonia. Ammonia is absorbed into the bloodstream and rebuilt into urea in the liver. Urea is excreted from the cow in her urine. The whole process of getting rid of the excess protein in fact costs energy, i.e. money! Limiting the amount of grass while providing enough rumen-available energy in the form of maize silage, molasses and/or ground barley will optimize rumen bug growth and multiplication in the rumen. These rumen bugs, once digested in the cow’s intestinal tract, will provide the protein available to the cow.

Limiting the amount of grass pasture fed to fresh cows will save pasture and will give you the chance to produce some high quality, high protein grass silage. Grass silage is needed during the dry Hawke’s Bay summers to provide enough protein when grass quality is low and available pasture is limited. Being able to feed cows properly through the summer months into the autumn pasture flush will enable you to create 300 day lactations, maintaining a persistent production.

Getting the balance right in fresh cow diets will lead to higher yearly productions, while maintaining a better body condition leading to a lower number of non cycling cows and to lower empty rates.

Endometritis & Mmetrichecking

Read more >Friday 1st of April 2016: Endometritis is a low-grade infection of the lining of the uterus that affects fertility and increases the period from calving to conception if a cow is infected. Most cows become infected around calving time. Treatment should be aimed at restoring fertility.

Non-cycling Cows

Read more >Friday 1st of April 2016: Non-cycling cows are cows that have not yet shown a heat at the planned start of mating. They occur for a wide variety of reasons including low body condition, endometritis, lameness etc.

Nutritional Consultancy & Intelact

Read more >Friday 1st of April 2016: Dairy production systems are changing from the traditional NZ all grass, seasonal systems to more supplement based, often split-calving systems. Dairy nutrition is a complicated process and a lot of research is done all over the world to optimize the way we feed our dairy cows.

Heifer Health

Read more >Friday 1st of April 2016: Be vigilant with young dairy stock at this time of the year to ensure they have adequate feeding and parasite control in place.

Velveting Stags

Read more >Friday 1st of April 2016: Velvet antler removal is defined as a "controlled surgical procedure" under the Animal Welfare Act 1999. This means the procedure can only be performed by, or under the direct supervision of, a veterinarian.

Deer Special Topic

Read more >Friday 1st of April 2016: In what has become a regular feature of our May calendar, we host a group of final year Massey University vet students here who are doing a Special Interest Topic in deer.

Tick Control in Deer

Read more >Friday 1st of April 2016: NZ has just one species of tick and luckily it doesn't carry any major diseases. However, we are seeing increasingly more properties with tick problems, especially deer farms.

Pre-Lamb Ewe Parasite Control

Read more >Friday 1st of April 2016: For those of you that subscribe to the AgLetter - I refer you to the excellent article of the 3rd July issue. As usual Chris Garland and his team get the "good noise" on issues and present excellent information to the industry. This article reviewed the practice of using Long Acting (LA) treatments in ewes pre lamb and my comments are as follows (you will need to read the article first).

Lice in Sheep

Read more >Friday 1st of April 2016: Lice infestation in sheep is primarily caused by the biting louse Bovicola Ovis.

Why Use a Teaser Ram? And How?

Read more >Friday 1st of April 2016: Teaser rams are entire rams that have been vasectomised. They have both testes still so they are keen to do the job but the operation has rendered them infertile - permanently. They are used to encourage ewes to begin oestrus activity in autumn and if used correctly the teaser rams can get this oestrus activity very well synchronized. This has some big positives - read on.

Toxoplasma Abortion in Sheep

Read more >Friday 1st of April 2016: The Cause: A protozoal parasite, Toxoplasma gondii, causing 20-30% of ewe abortions in this country.

Camplyobacter Abortions in Sheep

Read more >Friday 1st of April 2016: The Cause: The bacterium, Campylobacter fetus. Formerly known as "vibrio".


Read more >Friday 1st of April 2016: One of the tools in the parasite battle toolbox is the concept of "refugia". It goes against a farmer's natural instinct to kill every parasite because it means deliberately leaving 5-10% of each mob undrenched. This is done to maintain parasites susceptible to drenches because they've never been exposed.

Reproduction Cycle

Read more >Friday 1st of April 2016: Dogs have an interesting reproductive cycle, rather different to most domestic animals that cycle either seasonally or throughout the year. In the domestic canine, females cycle more or less every six months, with larger breeds tending to cycle less frequently - sometimes only once a year.

Feeding Working Dogs

Read more >Friday 1st of April 2016: Eukanuba Adult Large Breed Premium Performance Formula. Recommended for large and giant breed adult dogs weighing 25kg or more.

Equine Dentistry

Read more >Friday 1st of April 2016: With the current surge in interest in equine dentistry, more than a few myths have crept into popular belief. Find out more.


Read more >Friday 1st of April 2016: Spring and early summer are the high risk periods for pasture - induced laminitis, so this is a timely reminder of what this disease is and how you can avoid it.


Read more >Friday 1st of April 2016: There have been some statements regarding vaccination in dogs (and Dobermans in particular) floating around the internet for some time now which in my opinion are a cause for concern. Vaccination of dogs is done for one reason only - to protect the health of the animal by providing it with immunity against certain very serious diseases.

Sheep Measles

Read more >Friday 1st of April 2016: Sheep measles (Taenia Ovis) unlike true hydatids (Echinococcus granulosus) has no human health risks, but its importance lies in the fact that it leads to cysts through the carcass of the animal which are unsightly and lets face it, who wants to eat meat with visible oozing cysts.

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