Are your cows getting the best mineral supplements this spring?
Grassland Agro is a supplier of a unique, high-performance mineral block solution combined with a digestive aid called Calsea EuroBlocs.
The Calsea Eurobloc range is proving to be an increasingly popular method of providing free access mineral supplements to dairy and suckler cows in Ireland.
Interestingly, Calsea Eurobloc’s are the only free access mineral supplements to combine sodium self regulation with the benefits of Calseagrit Biotech digestive aid technology, therefore maximising the utilisation of minerals supplemented to cattle.
Calseagrit is a powerful bio-buffer of seaweed origin harvested from the sea, then dried and refined.
Calseagrit is the result of a process of micronisation of marine calcium.
Biotech is a brown seaweed extract.
A sodium base allows ruminants to self-regulate when licking the block (ruminants will only take what they need).
What is grass tetany/staggers?
Hypomagnesemia is the technical term and it is characterised by a subnormal level of magnesium in the blood. It is generally associated with grazing.
Typical symptoms are reduced milk yield (up to 15% loss of production), nervousness and muscular tremors.
In the acute form, the cow staggers around, froths at the mouth, collapses and dies.
How do cows develop staggers?
The primary cause is a nutritional deficiency of magnesium which is affected by the intake of dry matter, magnesium content of the dry matter, and the availability of the magnesium in the dry matter.
These three factors can be low under certain combinations of grassland management and environmental conditions.
Cattle must have a regular supply of magnesium as bodily storage is low.
When are cows most at risk?
In early spring when cows are put back into pasture the grass often has a low dry matter content and is likely to be low in magnesium and other nutrients.
In addition to ‘poor-quality’ grass, stress factors such as cold, wet weather, lack of shelter, rough handling and being in season add to this.
Reducing the risk of staggers
Applications of potash fertilisers and slurry rich in urine lower the magnesium content of grass.
Therefore, applications of potash fertilisers should be delayed until late spring/summer. Late applications of slurry should only be applied to fields for grazing in late spring or cropping.
Supply Calsea Turnout or magnesium to stock two weeks before turning them out to pasture. Ensure the supply is available to dairy cows for 10-to-12 weeks. Beef and suckler cows should have product available for the entire grazing period.
What is it?
Hypocalcaemia is an acute lowering of the calcium level of the blood serum. This problem is most common post-calving; however, it can occur a few days prior to calving.
With the onset of low blood calcium levels after calving, the earliest signs of milk fever are muscular spasms and partial paralysis, and chronic symptoms which present themselves as paralysis; unconsciousness; and death.
How do cows develop milk fever?
At calving, the demand for calcium to support milk production rises very sharply. At the same time, due to reduced appetite, it is very difficult to meet these needs by dietary supplementation.
Therefore, the cow needs to be able to mobilise her reserves from her skeleton.
If, prior to calving, an over supply of calcium has been offered the parathyroid glands (which control the mobilisation of calcium) can ‘switch off’. This means that when the cow needs to mobilise calcium from the body reserves, she is unable to do so.
Dry cow solutions
Providing the cow with the correct nutritional support during the dry period is the easiest and cheapest way to reduce the risk of milk fever.
It is essential to provide a low level of calcium to the cow prior to calving as this ensures the parathyroid gland continues to function correctly.
In addition to this, it is important to supply phosphorous and magnesium, which are necessary to support milk production, reduce stress and allow for easier calving.
Calcium borogluconate can be administered intravenously to restore calcium levels, but this means having the product and correct tools on hand. Dry cow management utilising Calsea Precalver is the long term, dry cow solution.
Importance of minerals at grass
The grazing period is a time when the dairy farmer should be looking forward to his lowest cost milk production as energy and protein-rich grass should mean lower feed costs.
However, incorrect mineral balance at this time can have a negative effect on yield and fertility as well as the overall health status of the herd.
Problems associated with grazing
Whilst grass is the cheapest form of feed available to the dairy farmer, it is generally an unreliable source of minerals and trace elements.
The levels of minerals in grass fall rapidly from July onwards, in particular phosphorus, which essentially supports production and fertility in the dairy cow.
This fall in minerals, in conjunction with a deterioration in the quality and digestibility of grass, makes good nutritional balance essential at this time of year.
In addition to falling grass quality, the levels of dairy cake offered is generally less than that offered in winter, but we are trying to support similar levels of milk production.
As a result the mineral support from dairy cake at this time of year is also reduced.
Problems associated with offering minerals at grass
Offering powder minerals outside is impractical. Molasses buckets are often over consumed by cows for the sweet taste and some cows are ‘bullied’ away also.
Traditional salt licks have a high-sodium and low-mineral content and therefore rarely meet the needs of the high-producing dairy cow.
When grass is lush it can be difficult to get cows to take any form of mineral and sometimes dairy cake can be rejected as well.
The mineral solution at grazing includes:
- Good pasture management;
- Using higher-quality dairy feeds;
- Offering cows free access to Calsea Phos throughout the grazing period.