Maximising daily liveweight gain (DLWG) is a key goal for beef enterprises with reduced finishing times strongly linked to business profitability.
While great emphasis is put on formulating an appropriate diet to drive weight gain, trace elements and vitamins – also sometimes referred to as micronutrients – is an area of nutrition that is often overlooked in finishing programmes.
They do however play a critical role in a host of body processes connected to weight gain, performance and health and should be a key consideration for those looking to optimise efficiency.
What trace elements and vitamins are important and why?
There are six key trace elements and three vitamins of importance to ruminants.
These micronutrients are usually the first thing that runs out in the biological system. This can predispose cattle to health issues and impair productivity.
Although only needed in very small quantities compared to macronutrients, trace elements and vitamins are essential for supporting growth and the overall health of the animal, as well as fertility in breeding stock, and therefore shouldn’t be forgotten about regardless of stock category.
Deficiencies can be seen in weak and lethargic cows and calves, poor growth and performance, and problems with fertility and calving, although milder imbalances can go undetected.
For more information on the role of trace elements, click here.
Understand your herd’s trace element status
Knowledge of the trace elements and vitamins lacking in a herd’s diet is a crucial starting point when looking to optimise nutrition. An over-supply of nutrients can be costly, both in terms of the monetary value and the health of the herd, so a clear understanding of where supplementation will be required is key.
For finishing cattle on forage-based rations, forage or fresh grass analysis will help gage what micronutrients are being providing through the diet.
In addition to this, collecting blood samples can be helpful to confirm the herd’s trace element and vitamin status and can support a more tailored approach to nutrition.
Trace element and vitamin requirements will differ depending on the production stage of the group. For example, the requirements of a pre-calving cow will be very different to that of a young heifer or finishing steer.
How to supplement micronutrients?
There are several ways to provide additional trace elements and vitamins, each requiring varying degrees of labour and cost. However, a long-lasting and reliable method is via the use of a bolus.
A bolus will provide a continuous supply of vital trace elements and vitamins over a sustained period. This can prove beneficial in both grazing and forage-based diets, where micronutrient levels can fluctuate.
Using a bolus will also ensure that each animal has received an adequate supply of micronutrients, especially in situations where behavioural issues among the group can affect feed intake.
An animal’s trace element status will vary depending on their diet, breed and age. However, there will typically always be a gap between nutrients provided by forage or grass and the requirement of the animal, and the ‘drip-feeding’ effect boluses deliver can be very effective at plugging this.
Weigh stock regularly
The adage of “you can’t manage what you don’t monitor” really is true and to optimise DLWG, regular weighing is a must.
Weighing cattle fortnightly is recommended for most herds in the finishing stage. This allows for prompt identification of underperforming cattle, helps establish growth patterns and can be useful to monitor the impact of any changes to diet or management.
A post-weaning DLWG of between 0.7kg and 1.2kg is the standard target for most herds but weight gain will vary depending on the system being run and the breed of the herd. 1.5kg per day is however very achievable, and even small improvements in DLWG will make a notable difference to margins.
Supporting overall cattle health and reducing the risk of deficiencies through a daily supply of six essential trace elements and three crucial vitamins, will help cattle reach their genetic potential with optimal DLWG.
Administering an EnduraBol® Cattle Bolus can provide the crucial trace elements and vitamins needed to support and maximise weight in finishing stock.
Offering the supplementation of six trace elements and three vitamins, the fully dissolvable matrix can deliver up to 240 days of a consistent release of micronutrients.