Efficient grass use for beef and sheep farms facing tricky summer
Beef and sheep farmers facing up to likely disruption of market prices by covid-19 are advised to focus on maximising animal productivity from grazing. However, following the winter’s high rainfall, this may be much more challenging than usual, according to vet Dr Elizabeth Berry at Animax.
She says prolonged waterlogging means many pastures will be more deficient than usual in the trace elements essential for efficient feed utilisation and high liveweight gains, good health and reproductive success.
“On most farms, selenium, cobalt and iodine, along with copper on some, are the essentials,” she says. “These are involved in immunity, energy metabolism, digestive enzymes and breeding hormones. Clearly, sub-optimal function in any one of these will have an adverse effect on animal productivity.”
Award winning farmer Derek Deane near Tombeagh in Co Carlow has already taken steps to address this. As well as keeping a 120-cow suckler herd, he finishes about 180 beef cattle and 500 store lambs a year.
His soils are high in molybdenum, known for causing problems with trace elements supply. In the past, Mr Deane has used mineral drenches and copper injections but with limited success.
Two years ago in the store lambs, he trialled 180-day trickle supplementation from a leaching bolus and liked the results. Based on this success, the same Allsure bolus programme was introduced first to grazing calves and then, most recently, pre-breeding for the cows.
“On this farm, slow release trace elements clearly have a very beneficial effect,” he says.
Just across the Irish Sea near Cardiff, farmer Arwyn Prichard deliberately missed one of his bulling heifers when giving pre-turnout trickle charge boluses. Two months later, the odd-one-out could be identified easily (see advert).
Amid this year’s somewhat disrupted context, Animax’s Dr Berry acknowledges the good business sense of pursuing maximum performance from grass. “Obviously it’s a high quality, low cost feed, but low trace element content is its Achilles heel,” she says. “Overcoming this before it affects animal performance is sound strategy, affordable and easy to do.”