Ciara and Dennis jeopardise spring grazing performance, unless…
Even before Storms Ciara and Dennis, widespread high rainfall this winter meant spring grazing for sheep, beef and dairy cattle was more likely than usual to contain insufficient trace elements, according to vet Elizabeth Berry at Animax. “When spring turnout eventually comes, the only way to be sure is by analysing fresh grass samples,” she says. “Otherwise, to exploit grazing to the full for liveweight gain or milk production, supplementation of trace elements is necessary.”
Among the ways available, Dr Berry advises that not all are equally effective. Free-access minerals are used widely for convenience, but the AHDB booklet ‘Trace Element Supplementation of Beef Cattle and Sheep’ cautions that intakes can be variable.
“The widespread belief that animals are aware of any mineral deficiency and will only take what they need is wrong,” it says. “Across breeds and farms, some take little or none, others take several times more than they require.”
After limited success with a number of different supplements, Gary and Meinir Howells in Carmarthenshire saw higher lambing percentages, stronger new borns and faster lamb growth when ewes were given a 180-day trickle charge bolus of selenium, cobalt and iodine.
Success in the 600-ewe flock led to cattle versions being adopted too for their 50 sucklers and 40 head/year in-calf heifers. Gary reports that many more calves are born on time, not late. They are quick to get up, start sucking, and overall are much more lively and healthy.
Moreover, he says the 180-day duration is massively easier than other methods. Ewes get a Tracesure bolus before tupping and another in early May, while cows and heifers get theirs pre-turnout, about two months before due to calve.
The leaching bolus formula used in Tracesure supplements, designed for consistent, slow release of trace elements at a regulated rate, is unique to Animax. The company’s livestock specialists are available to farmers for free advice.