Are your trace element supplementation investments false economies?
Whether your main enterprise is beef or dairy, it is a well-documented fact that ensuring the optimum trace element status in your herd is critical to boost productivity and to promote fertility.
Where some farmers struggle is in differentiating between the wide range of nutritional products available; from free-access systems such as licks and blocks, to injections, feed supplements and boluses.
To shed some light on the issue, one of Bimeda’s Professional Services veterinarians, Rachel Mallet, highlighted some of the key trace element deficiencies in cattle, and the options available to address these.
“From speaking to farmers around Ireland, and from looking at the results of market research we have conducted, I know that some would like more information about what form of trace element supplementation is best for their herd.
“With ever-increasing pressure on milk prices, as well as squeezed profits in every farming sector, it is absolutely critical that farmers are selecting products that they can trust to provide a consistent level of trace elements to their cattle.
“While the importance of ensuring optimum trace element levels is widely understood, I find that many farmers are unaware that peaks and troughs of supplementation can have a negative impact on fertility, so products that cannot guarantee consistency should be avoided.
“Where it has been identified that trace element supplementation is required, it is vital that farmers choose a supplementation method that can be relied on to provide the same levels of trace elements every single day,” she said.
Mallet discussed some of the options available including oral drenches, free-access systems, in-feed supplementation, pasture dressing and trace element boluses.
Drenches can seem like a cheap and convenient option, she said.
However, for trace elements which cannot be stored in the body, such as cobalt or iodine, they are not appropriate to treat deficiencies, as a form of continuous supplementation must be provided.
“For example, the body has no capacity to store cobalt.
“This means that if you provide cobalt via a drench, any cobalt that the body cannot use will simply be passed out in the faeces, making the drench a false economy for the farmer.
“Frequent dosing is required, which increases costs to the farmer – both in terms of the drench itself and labour required,” she said.
Mallet also discussed the use of free-access systems, such as the use of licks and blocks, to treat trace element deficiencies.
“Where a need to supplement trace elements has been established, we need to ensure that all animals receive an amount of trace elements which is compatible with their daily requirements.
“Too much of a trace element can prove toxic; too little and the deficiency will not be addressed. Furthermore, variable intakes can have a negative impact on fertility.
Unfortunately, the free-access lick and block systems cannot that ensure each animal receives the same level of trace elements.
“In fact, an independent study (McDowell, 1992) highlighted that intakes between animals are extremely variable, with some consuming nothing and others consuming excessive quantities,” she said.
Pasture dressing and water supplementation
“Like blocks and licks, these forms of supplementation suffer from variable intakes.
“This is problematic as some cattle may consume trace elements in excess while some may not consume enough,” she added.
“Injections can be suitable for targeted administration in conjunction with the advice of your vet.
“They can be appropriate where only a single trace element, such as copper or selenium is required,” Mallet said.
Trace elements can be provided by the provision of TMR, concentrates or bag minerals, she added.
“Often these are specified based on ‘averages’ or ‘common requirements’, as opposed to being based on what has been determined as deficient and required on the farm.
“Ideally these mixes should be prepared, based on an investigation into the animals’ trace element status and requirements. This method can add significantly to the cost of production.”
Trace element boluses
The Bimeda representative also discussed the use of trace element boluses and how they are beneficial when it comes to trace element supplementation.
“I recommend bolusing as the ideal form of trace element supplementation, as boluses provide an convenient, cost-effective and controlled method of trace element supplementation.
“A good quality bolus will provide the same amount of trace elements every single day for the duration of the bolus.
Their long-lasting nature is also highly convenient and reduces labour costs, as repeated treatments are not required during the life of the bolus.
“This time of year is also ideal for bolusing.
“Many farmers tend only to bolus in autumn but twice-a-year bolusing, using a trace element bolus that lasts for six months, can be an ideal way to ensure a consistent supply of trace elements required for fertility and health.
“I always recommend CoseIcure for animals requiring iodine, cobalt, copper and selenium as it lasts for up to six months and is proven to supply the same level of trace elements every day,” she concluded.
Mary Murphy, Marketing Manager for Bimeda commented on the boluses available from Bimeda, stating: “Bimeda’s Coseicure soluble glass cattle boluses provide exactly the same amount of copper, cobalt, selenium and iodine every single day for up to six months.
“This means there are no variable intakes and no guesswork for the farmer.
“This is particularly important for animals requiring cobalt and iodine which cannot be stored in the body and therefore a daily supply is required,” she said.
“As the same amount of trace elements are supplied every day, there are no peaks and troughs of supplementation, which could impact negatively on fertility.
“The boluses last for up to six months, so where a need for supplementation has been established, supplying the boluses twice a year can provide the trace elements that are vital for health and fertility year-round.
“The dairy and beef farmers I have spoken to find them to be highly convenient and effective,” she concluded.
Video: How do Coseicure boluses work?
It is vital to remember that trace elements should only ever be supplied where a need for supplementation has been established.
For further advice on trace element nutrition, consult with your vet or animal health advisor.