Calving Paddocks - managing paddocks infections

Dry cow and calving paddocks

Calving paddocks are often viewed as being much less problematic than calving areas indoors but unfortunately the increased incidence of environmental mastitis while cows are out at grass suggests that more care needs to be taken in managing dry cow paddocks, as many environmental mastitis infections, particularly E. Coli, actually occur during the dry period and only become apparent during early lactation.

Many of the recommendations for grazing areas for cows in the milking herd are equally as important for dry cows. A stocking rate of seven cows/acre is more appropriate for dry cows, but the requirement for pasture rotation is still valid.

Many farms use a single paddock close to farm buildings for dry cows, particularly for convenience and the ability to observe calving cows more easily. Unfortunately, this leads to a build-up of pathogens on the grazing, and a rotation allowing no more than two continuous weeks in each grazing, with a four-week rest period, will help to avoid contamination of the paddock.

Similarly, it is common nutritional practice to keep dry cows tightly-stocked with restricted amounts of grazing pre-calving, but this practice could lead to further concentration in the numbers of pathogens present on the grazing. Some dairy farmers have adopted the use of sand yards for calving cows in situations where managing calving paddocks is difficult. Sand is a particularly good inert material that does not easily support pathogens that cause environmental mastitis.