Silage analysis from around the country is confirming a significant reduction in the quality of forage available to Irish dairy farmers this winter, according to Alltech.

This will have major implications regarding the feeding strategies implemented for dairy cows in the run up to calving, according to Alltech technical representative Colm Duffy.

“Even in a good year the forages produced on Irish farms are lacking in many of the trace elements required by dry cows,” he said.

“As a consequence, one of the key factors in ensuring a trouble-free calving period and a smooth transition into lactation is the selection of the correct dry cow mineral package, one which is capable of overcoming the level of deficiency that will occur in silages and other feeds.”

Over the last number of years, Alltech has carried out mineral analysis on hundreds of Irish silage samples. This work, it says, has confirmed significant deficiency levels in copper, zinc, manganese and, particularly, selenium.

This, in turn predisposes cows to a host of metabolic disorders post-calving, according to Alltech, which says these deficiencies must be corrected.

“Simply adding these minerals to pre-calver diets in their standard inorganic form will not suffice,” Duffy said.

“As a consequence, large numbers of cows have been offered minerals in a wholly inappropriate form, one which has ensured their non-utilisation by the animals and thereafter, their excretion into the environment.

“The inability of cows to build sufficient reserves of these trace elements in the dry period, result in them suffering from metabolic disorders as they go through transition and into lactation as they have an inadequately prepared immune system.”

Colm went on to point out that research carried out by Alltech has led to the development of the Bioplex range of organic trace minerals and Sel-Plex organic form of selenium.

According to Alltech, these technologies ensure that essential trace elements such as copper, zinc and selenium can now be supplied in a form as close as possible to that which occurs naturally in the plant, allowing for deficiency issues to finally be addressed with a form of mineral that is ideally suited to purpose.

“We now know that the total replacement of these elements with their organic Bioplex equivalent is the most cost effective way of combating trace mineral deficiency problems,” he said.

“This format of dry cow mineral supplementation constitutes what’s called Total Replacement Technology, or TRT. When applied appropriately, it helps to ensure a trouble-free calving by boosting the cows’ immune system. In essence, she is afforded greater protection from metabolic diseases during this stressful period.

“Many farmers across Ireland are now experiencing incredibly positive responses in their herd by taking this approach and insisting on the Alltech Bioplex and Sel-Plex TRT component in their dry cow mineral pre-mix,” Duffy said.