Belgian Blue-cross suckler cow

Stronger calves, better recovery from calving, higher fertility

Since introducing ‘trickle charge’ trace element boluses five years ago, these are the most noticeable improvements seen by Syd Bainbridge in his 90 cow Limousin cross Belgian Blue suckler herd.

Following advice from his vet about iodine and selenium deficiencies identified by blood tests, cows at Marrick Abbey Farm in North Yorkshire get a 180-day duration Tracesure bolus at housing and again pre-turnout.

Mr Bainbridge sells the calves, mostly by Belgian Blue sires, at 10 to 12 months of age through local auctions, mainly Leyburn. Such is the herd’s exceptional quality, a heifer went on to be supreme champion at the 2018 English Winter Fair.

Vet Dr Elizabeth Berry explains that selenium plays a crucial part in fertility, immune function and enzyme synthesis, while iodine regulates metabolism and conversion of food into energy.

The boluses used by Mr Bainbridge also include cobalt, needed by rumen bugs for producing vitamin B12, an essential component in energy metabolism and creating red blood cells. Copper is also a bolus option where farmers already know it is deficient from past bad experience.

Dr Berry points out that much of the country’s grazed or conserved grass is deficient in essential trace elements. “Without supplementation, sub-optimal metabolic functions are likely to hold back animal productivity and financial performance, she says. “Trace element supplementation to help cattle or indeed sheep make maximum use of forage is good business as well as affordable.

“Among available methods – drenching, in-feed minerals, free-access licks, for example – Tracesure boluses offer 180-days’ duration, single handling, and constant trickle-charge of trace elements.

“Giving this leaching bolus just twice a year is easy, with a short video demonstration and telephone advice available for first-timers.”

Leaching bolus technology was developed by and is exclusive to Animax. It is designed to release trace elements at a consistent rate, compatible with the animal’s daily requirements.

Self-preservation from adverse UK-EU trade deal

The only safe assumption about a UK-EU trade deal is that it could reduce farm gate prices for cattle and sheep, possibly milk as well.

Amid this uncertainty as the winter housing period gets under way, vet Dr Elizabeth Berry of Animax suggests it makes sense that farmers focus on things they can control to improve productivity and minimise production costs.

“A clear example is maximising production from forage,” she says.

Tracesure is known as Allsure in Ireland. Farmers can get more information from Animax livestock specialists here.