A seasonal phosphorous deficiency has been detected in some dairy herds, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine’s (DAFM’s) Regional Veterinary Laboratories (RVLs) have warned.

In blood samples taken from certain dairy herds, a ‘marked prevalence’ of the deficiency was recorded.

Of the 73 bovine bloods tested for inorganic phosphorous (Pi) in Athlone RVL in April 2021, 47% had Pi values that were low or below the normal range.

The month of April saw dry weather conditions in most areas around the country, with temperatures alternating between daytime highs and nighttime lows.

Dry weather can lead to a reduced ability of pasture to uptake phosphorus; this has occurred recently and was also observed in a similar prolonged dry spell in April and May in 2020.

Phosphorous deficiency signs

Phosphorus deficiency in cattle is associated with weakness, decreased milk yield, infertility, haemoglobinuria, and ‘pica’ or depraved appetite (a craving to lick/eat abnormal items such as stones).

Veterinary practitioners have been alerted and they will consider seasonal phosphorus deficiency in herds where these signs occur, and will confirm this by blood samples sent to the nearest RVL.

Farmers are advised to contact their vet for treatment advice if they suspect this condition in their herd, and should discuss preventive measures with their vet or Teagasc advisor.