“Why guess when you can be sure?”

This was said not by a slick marketing consultant but youngstock manager Howard Stokes to explain why he’s been using Tracesure boluses for the past seven years [since 2015].

At any one time, he’s in charge of rearing about 800 dairy heifers to calve at two years of age into the Wyke Farms 1,500-cow herd near Bruton in Somerset. The herd produces 8,500 litres a cow at 4.2% butterfat and 3.3% protein for the business’s award winning cheese-making operation.

“The main thing is knowing that each heifer is getting the trace elements they need every day,” he says.

Compared with free access supplements, he says there’s no guesswork about bigger or smaller individuals alike getting what they need.

Heifers get a calf bolus shortly after weaning, then the yearling version at 12 and 18 months of age. Howard says giving a bolus is easy, particularly because one for copper can be given at the same time as selenium, iodine and cobalt.

Much of this country’s grazed or conserved grass is deficient in essential trace elements. Without supplementation, functions affected by deficiencies include immunity, energy metabolism, digestive enzymes and breeding hormones.

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

The recommendation is to give a Tracesure bolus twice a year for a constant release of essential trace elements, for 6 months. This is made possible by the leaching bolus technology, developed by and exclusive to Animax. The company’s specialists are available for information about the most suitable bolus to use for specific circumstances.

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. In beef and sheep, exactly the same principles apply as alongside. Indeed, compared with dairy heifers the payback is much quicker.

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.

For example, 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. And where copper is also deficient, 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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