Tackling even minor deficiencies of essential trace elements can improve sheep performance by eliminating their negative effects on energy metabolism, critical enzymes and hormones, and aspects of their immune function.

Now, consistently accurate daily trace-element supplementation has become easier in lambs (over 15kg) and adults, with the next generation of the trusted and unique Tracesure range of leaching boluses.

From Allsure to Tracesure
Trace element boluses that Irish farmers have known and trusted for a number of years as Allsure, will be known here from now on as Tracesure. Other than new product name, the boluses are exactly the same except that the range has been expanded to cover the full age spectrum of sheep (and cattle too).

Each Tracesure variant contains exactly the right level of supplements for the intended age group without unnecessary components such as vitamins. All options are available with or without copper.

Product names have been simplified with new colour-coded packaging to help ensure the correct sized boluses are used: Pale blue for Tracesure Lambs and a darker blue Tracesure Sheep for ewes and rams.

This distinctive livery is to help farmers observe a golden rule for high livestock productivity, according to Animax vet Dr. Elizabeth Berry.

“Using the right product to supply the right levels of supplementation has never been more relevant than today when livestock farmers are coping with all-time high prices for feed, fuel and fertiliser,” said Dr. Berry.

“To improve margins, one option is to seek productivity gains in as yet under-exploited areas. For example, much of Irish grassland, and therefore silage, hay and other forages too are deficient in essential trace elements.

“So for many farmers, there’s an opportunity to ensure an essential daily trace element supply, which is critical to ewe and lamb productivity alike.”

The consistent release, leaching technology used in Tracesure boluses was developed by and is unique to Animax. It supplies trace elements at a consistent rate, compatible with animals’ daily requirements.

To minimise labour requirement, boluses can be given when sheep are already gathered for other management tasks.

Driving productivity

Looking ahead, whatever price levels are for finished lambs this time next year, the number one driver of sheep profitability in all systems remains productivity, in particular lambs sold per ewe.

Clearly, increasing this aspect of performance depends on finding lasting improvements, though many easy wins from the past are already standard practice today.

On some of Ireland’s farms, however, this does not yet include providing assured daily trace element supplementation in the important run up to breeding.

Get ready for: Stronger ovulation; higher embryo survival; higher lambing %; fewer barren ewes; minimal handling; ‘give and forget’ for six months; easy copper option if required (e.g. prevention of swayback in lambs).

On most farms, the essentials for high conception rates are selenium, cobalt and iodine, plus optional copper depending on breed and management where there is known deficiency. Although some supplements also contain zinc, this is largely unnecessary because sheep are very rarely deficient in this mineral.

By far the easiest and most reliable method of supplementation is a six-month Tracesure bolus, providing consistent daily release of trace elements. To reduce workload, these can be given at the same time as other tasks including worming, vaccinations and foot checks.

According to Dr. Berry, the best timing for supplementation is about six weeks before breeding begins.

“Even if autumn grass is plentiful, its nutritional value can be deceptively low,” she said.

“Perhaps more likely this year is that sparse grazing and poor quality could have a serious bearing on post-weaning recovery of ewes and their fertility.

“Even if it’s plentiful and supplying all the energy and protein needed, much of the grazing in this country is deficient in one or more trace elements. Their essential roles in metabolic processes mean that shortages will limit the ability of ewes and rams alike to utilise nutrients in grazed grass fully.

In most places, the deficient trace elements are cobalt, iodine and selenium. Cobalt is needed by rumen bugs for producing vitamin B12, an essential component in energy metabolism and producing red blood cells. Iodine regulates metabolism and conversion of food into energy, while selenium is needed for enzyme synthesis and plays a crucial part in immune function and fertility.

For information about using Tracesure boluses in sheep, specialists are available nationwide.

For more information, click here.