Early readiness advised in Wales for spring grazing unpredictability
Widespread high rainfall in Wales this winter means spring grazing for sheep, beef and dairy cattle is more likely than usual to contain insufficient trace elements, according to vet Elizabeth Berry at Animax. “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.”
For low labour requirement, reliability and precision, Dr Berry recommends “trickle charge” supplemention of selenium, iodine and cobalt with a Tracesure 180-day leaching bolus. Where copper is required, it can also be supplemented in bolus form using copper oxide needle technology, but advice should be sought first.
“Clearly, making best use of spring grass is essential to minimise production costs,” she says. “In view of our weather’s unpredictability becoming the norm, Welsh livestock performance is more likely to be at the mercy of random pasture availability and nutritional quality if this winter’s incessant rainfall continues into March and April.
“So preparations now for ‘come-what-may’ spring grazing conditions make good business sense, with cattle and sheep primed in advance to use grazing to the full, as soon as it becomes available.”
Whether this spring is early or late, easy or difficult, recently crowned NFU Cymru Livestock Champion of the Year Gary Howells from Carmarthenshire is taking no chances. “Ewes have a Tracesure bolus before tupping and another in early May,” he explains. “For our spring calving suckler cows and heifers, the timing is pre-turnout, about two months before they’re due to give birth.”
Leaching bolus technology, unique to Animax, is designed for consistent, slow release of trace elements at a regulated rate. The company’s livestock specialists are available to farmers for free advice.