As we approach spring turnout, organic dairy farmers are being reminded to monitor the trace element status of their herd.
The variety and quantity of trace elements available in organic pastures can hugely depend on the weather and differ regionally, field-to-field and right down to each cow’s mouthful.
And the transition from carefully balanced rations while housed, to spring grass, can leave herds at risk of mineral deficiency, which can lead to potential health and production problems.
Although supplementing with magnesium is a widely recognised, crucial consideration at this time of year, Hannah Reeve, group product manager at the Denis Brinicombe Group, says understanding the role of specific micronutrients is vital to help improve herd productivity and longevity.
“Many trace elements play a significant role in maximising overall performance in dairy cows, supporting health, fertility and production,” she says.
Yields, health and fertility
“For instance, although cobalt is only required in small amounts, its benefits are substantial when it comes to maximising milk production throughout the lactation.
“Cobalt facilitates the production of Vitamin B12 to take place in the rumen, which is then absorbed into the intestine, where it’s essential for energy metabolism.”
While warning farmers to be cautious of over-supplementing copper, Miss Reeve explains how copper, along with zinc, can support growth, fertility and a healthy immune system.
“Zinc is also an essential component, especially in the formation of keratin, which supports healthy hoof structure, which helps reduce the risk of lameness. Zinc also aids in repairing udder tissue after milking,” she explains.
“Another trace element that supports udder health is selenium. It helps fight against invading bacteria and pathogens that can cause mastitis. Selenium also aids thyroid hormone production, alongside iodine, to enhance fertility and foetal development.
“Iodine is essential in the synthesis of the thyroid hormone, which supports metabolic rate and promotes increased lactation, muscle function and growth. It also plays an important part in the oestrous cycle.
“In addition, manganese plays a pivotal role in supporting fertility and foetal development. And it also aids skeletal growth, in the formation of cartilage and connective tissues.”
Miss Reeve says there are many ways to supplement trace elements, that may be low or missing in organic dairy diets, such as mineralised buckets or bagged minerals.
However, she suggests a quick and efficient way to ensure trace elements are delivered to the reticulum of each cow consistently is to administer boluses ahead of turnout. This will mitigate against the potential variability in micronutrition that grazing can result in.
“Single-construction boluses, with a single-point of erosion, such as EnduraBol® Organic, can offer organic cattle with a sustained daily release of six trace elements, for up to six months, which is ideal for spring turnout,” concludes Miss Reeve.