Balancing Trace Elements

balancing trace elements

Cattle will be both healthier and perform better with appropriate supplementation of key trace elements - are they getting the right ones?

Young stock or adults, trace elements are a big driver of health and performance in dairy systems. Although most farms appear to have a basic trace element plan for their stock, too often we will be asked to help in situations. These situations can be downer cows, sudden death, poor youngstock growth or health, poor mating results, or even bone fractures are occurring and where poor trace element levels (either too little or too much) can be the causative factor.

There are now many methods by which trace elements can be supplemented to stock. These range from loose licks and salt blocks, through in-feed options, fertiliser, oral bullets or drench, and both short and long-acting injectable products. There is no one way that will suit all farms or all stock classes, but for every farm, the truth remains that cattle will be both healthier and perform better with appropriate supplementation of key trace elements. The key trace elements for cattle are copper, selenium, calcium, magnesium, cobalt or vitamin B12. Other important ones include things such as zinc, manganese, chromium, vitamin E, and iodine.

In recent memory I can think of December milk fever cases, grass staggers, fractures of the front legs in heifers or 2nd calvers, and issues of poor young stock growth that I have seen that may have all been prevented with a more thorough farm trace element plan.

Regardless of how you choose to supplement your cattle, we would encourage you to use testing to ensure that levels are adequate, and ultimately, that your supplementation method is working. There can be a huge difference between the absence of obvious disease and achieving peak performance and health, so testing is an absolute necessity. This could include soil or herbage tests in some cases, or animal testing of blood or liver. Testing of animal levels may indicate when reserves are nearly exhausted and more supplementation is required, they could also indicate when levels are getting high and that supplementation should be reduced to avoid toxicity.

We would love to talk with you about forming a robust trace element plan for your youngstock or milking herd to achieve peak health and performance. We have a range of products available to suit your requirements which include both restricted and over-the-counter options. Give us a call to chat about your needs.

- Joel Hughes


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