Ensuring cows have a good trace element status is a crucial piece of the jigsaw when preparing cows for calving this autumn.
Trace element supplementation in the six to eight weeks leading up to cows calving down will help balance any dietary deficiencies and enable them to better cope with the heightened physiological stress around calving, says Hannah Reeve, group product manager at B2B Nutrition, the trade arm of Brinicombe.
“The calving period is the most critical time in the production year and has a big impact on herd performance and business profitability,” she says.
“It’s therefore vital to prepare the cow as well as possible, to help achieve a straightforward delivery of a healthy calf, followed by a quick recovery, so that’s she’s able to get back in calf within the critical three-month window.”
Miss Reeve explains that while balancing macro minerals such as magnesium and calcium are usually front of mind in the run up to calving, micronutrients are a key dietary requirement that are sometimes overlooked.
“Trace elements are critical for good micronutrition, due to their role in a range of essential bodily processes. While only required in very small quantities, there is typically an increased demand around calving to support the health and performance of both cow and calf,” says Miss Reeve.
Key trace elements such as iodine, selenium and zinc have been shown to support a healthy immune system, while aiding foetal development and boosting calf vigour.
“A cow can experience a drop-in immunity around calving if her trace element status is impaired. This often leads to a higher risk of metabolic disease and calving problems,” she explains.
Miss Reeve says, illness around calving, or the birth of weaker calves that fail to get up and suck quickly, is costly.
“Not only does this have immediate implications in terms of treatment costs and added labour, but it’s also a precursor for longer-term drops in productivity and performance.
“For example, cows that have suffered from metabolic disease at calving are likely to experience subsequent issues with fertility. This will impact the entire production cycle and may compromise cow longevity within the herd,” she says.
Miss Reeve encourages farmers to utilise every tool available to ensure a successful calving season and cites the use of boluses as a reliable way to support trace element status.
“Boluses are a great way of delivering essential trace elements and vitamins to cows as they provide a sustained release of micronutrients.
“A bolus, such as EnduraBol® Pre-Calver, will provide a consistent supply of trace elements and vitamins for up to four months. They can be administered around eight weeks prior to cows calving down to cover both the run up to, and the weeks after calving, when demands on the cow are at their highest,” says Miss Reeve