DIY farm trial shows clear gains from trace elements while housed

“They help cattle make better use of what they eat”

This was said not by a slick marketing consultant but beef and sheep farmer Roy Magowan from Hilltown, Co Down.

In a DIY trial on two lots of continental-cross heifers, Roy bolused a group of smaller cattle with Tracesure for essential trace elements, and left the batch of bigger ones without. By the time bolused heifers were finished and sold, he says the originally better batch “were still miles behind, despite getting extra meal.”

Since then, Roy boluses twice a year, at spring turnout and again at housing, and reports “a massive difference as a result.

“They work really well for me,” he says. “Animals not only gain more weight, their coats look better too. These boluses clearly allow cattle to make better use of what they eat.”

In explanation, vet Dr Elizabeth Berry points out that much of Ireland’s grass, silage and hay are deficient in essential trace elements. “Without supplementation, functions affected by deficiencies include immunity, energy metabolism, digestive enzymes and breeding hormones,” she explains.

“Sub-optimal function in any one of these is likely to have adverse effects on animal productivity and financial performance. Trace element supplementation to help calves and yearlings make maximum use of forage is good business as well as affordable.

“Among available methods – drenching, in-feed minerals or free-access licks, for example – one offering six month supplementation, single handling, and constant trickle-charge of trace elements is an Tracesure bolus.

“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. The company’s specialists are available for information about the most suitable bolus to use for specific circumstances.

Same for dairy youngstock or sheep

Until the impact on Irish agriculture of an EU-UK trade deal is known, it is anybody’s guess how it could affect sheep prices. While in dairying, the ups and downs of milk prices hardly make things certain.

Amid such uncertainty, Dr Berry suggests that it makes sense to focus on things you can control that will impact productivity and help minimise avoidable losses and production costs.

“One obvious example is maximising productivity from forage,” she says. “In sheep or dairy heifers, exactly the same principles apply as in beef systems. Even if winter forage is plentiful enough to supply all energy and protein needs, most is deficient in some trace elements whose functions in metabolic processes mean shortages will limit all ruminants’ ability to utilise nutrients in forage fully.”

Cobalt is needed by rumen bugs for producing vitamin B12, an essential component in energy metabolism and producing red blood cells. Iodine regulates metabolism and conversion of food into energy. Selenium is needed for enzyme synthesis and plays a crucial part in immune function and fertility. Where copper is also deficient, Dr Berry says most farmers already know about the consequences from past bad experience.

Farmers can get more information from Animax livestock specialists here.

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