The dairy sector is characterized by increasing milk production per cow. This high productivity poses a challenge for the animal. Especially the period of 60 to 90 days around calving, the transition period, is very critical for the animal. The development of multifactorial problems during this period leads to significant economic losses and reduced animal welfare during the subsequent lactation. However, not all cows are equally sensitive to development of transition problems. The aim of this project is to develop tools that enable the farmer to identify these risk animals and to take preventive measures.
In first instance, a transition index is developed that makes it possible to evaluate the transition success of an animal. This model is based on the expected and actual milk production. Lower milk production than expected results in a poorer transition index. Next, extensive monitoring of dairy cattle (including the activity of the animal and blood-, milk- and manure metabolites) is performed in order to assess the reason for reduced transition success. This monitoring is primarily done for 100 cows at ILVO. During the rest of the project, this monitoring is also extended to commercial farms and the Hooibeekhoeve. Based on these data, the aim is to find out which tools are best suited to identify higher-risk animals in practice.
The focus of this project is the practice oriented translation of research for professional dairy farmers. The results are first translated to the participating farmers in the form of management and ration advice. Further, the results will be shared with other farmers via trade magazines, workshops, presentations and informational sessions. To maximize efficiency of these communications, they will be integrated with other existing platforms/initiatives, such as Koesensor. The spread of knowledge will also be targeted to other actors in the dairy sector. A new users group has been set up with this in mind. In addition to the direct translation of knowledge in "applications", this project also has an important scientific focus that is directly related to several doctoral studies.