Video: Using seaweed supplements to make cattle healthier in Co. Westmeath
Farming in Mount Temple, Moate, Co. Westmeath, Irvine Allen – alongside his father Pat – has been running a dairy calf-to-beef operation for the past eight years.
The Westmeath-based farmer purchases Aberdeen Angus, Hereford and Friesian calves. 80% of the steers and heifers purchased are slaughtered under 24 months, while the remaining 20% are brought to beef at 28 months-of-age.
Last year, after learning about a Sealac product – ‘Good Gut Health’ – through his co-op manager, Irvine began to feed the seaweed supplement – mixed through milk replacer – to his 2019 spring-born calves purchased last February; he hasn’t looked back since.
“It was quite easy to manage; I just put in the recommended amount per day and, after three or four weeks, I could see that the calves looked healthier,” he explained.
“I also had a lot less trouble last spring with scours and fluctuations in temperature, so I’m quite sure that it helped keep the calves healthier in that sense too.”
After some impressive results, Irvine then moved onto Sealac’s ‘Follow-On-Flake’ – which can be fed to both cattle and sheep – intended to deliver additional vitamins and minerals, while also boosting energy levels.
“The Follow-On-Flake was very convenient because it was just a matter of measuring out the amount that you need per feed and shaking it on top of the crunch and the calves loved it; they went mad for it actually.
“Overtime, their crunch intake increased hugely; I even had some calves that, when they got to eight-to-10 weeks-of-age, weaned themselves off milk.
“I continued to feed the calves with the ration when they went out to grass, but I normally stop feeding ration in June or July depending on the age of the calf – just to give them a break from it,” he explained.
However, when Irvine stopped feeding the ‘flake’ to the calves at grass, he noticed a change in their coats.
“I started back feeding it again at the end of August or early September, and after a number of weeks I could see that healthy glow coming back into the calves.
“So, I will continue to use Sealac into the future; it is one of the best products I have come across since I started farming,” the Westmeath man concluded.
A variety of products
In this video (above), Sealac’s Jennifer Dempsey runs through a number of seaweed-based supplements, which cater for several categories, including: pigs; horses; foals; cattle; calves; sheep; and lambs.
“The latest product that we have just developed is Sealix, which is basically a lick with the inclusion of seaweed.
“It was developed to improve energy levels and, once they are off the ‘Follow-On-Flake, it helps to keep the minerals and vitamins topped up,” she said, adding that farmers are very happy with the results.
To view a full list of products, just click here
Where did the idea come from?
Commenting on the entire operation, Sealac’s Martin Dempsey said: “Seaweed is a natural choice for us as we are in the west of Ireland.
“We have found that the inclusion of seaweed in rations is helping with good gut health to give the animal the best start in life.
“The supplements that we produce here are unique because we dry at a low temperature. By doing so, we retain all the minerals, vitamins, antioxidants and polysaccharides that are heat sensitive,” he highlighted.
Martin also touched on the future and the challenges that are coming down the road.
“We have been farmers all our lives and we are acutely aware of the challenge that antimicrobial resistance is going to pose for us.
“So, this is where the idea for Sealac came from; we wanted products that would improve animal health. We are all about health and producing healthier animals.
“If we can keep the animal healthier from birth, well -then – that reduces the need for the antibiotic. I think if all farmers included some seaweed supplements in their animals from an early stage, they will see the benefits,” he concluded.
Sealac – a family-owned company that specialises in the collection and manufacturing of Ascophyllum nodosum for animal and plant nutrition – was established in 2016 in Kiltimagh, Co. Mayo.
Ascophyllum Nodosum occurs between the low and mid-inter tidal zone of the north Atlantic Ocean. The west coast of Ireland is rich in rocky, sheltered areas which present a pure and abundant source of brown seaweed.
The species has long strap-like fronds with large egg-shaped air bladders at regular intervals. The fronds of Ascophyllum nodosum are typically between 0.5m and 2m in length.
This seaweed is high in polysaccharides. It contains over 60 minerals and elements, more than 12 vitamins and valuable carbohydrates, including: Alginic Acid; Fucoidan; Laminarin; and Mannitol.
Seaweed is a natural resource with amino acids and trace elements which can be fed directly to animals or mixed with animal feed. Sealac uses the seaweed – Ascoplyllum nodosum – which has been used for years to support the health and well-being of animals.
Harvesting and processing
Sealac harvests Ascophyllum nodosum in a sustainable way in clean sea waters.
This species is traditionally hand-harvested by local cutters at low tide (as seen in the video – above). Harvesters use careful rotation and selection of the cutting areas to allow sustainable management of the seaweed stocks, and a regeneration of the resource.
With regard to foreshore sustainability, Sealac has developed an exclusive application to map and manage the harvest areas.
Once the fresh, raw material has been received and inspected, it is washed to remove any sand and impurities; cleaned seaweed is then conveyed into the factory to be dried and milled.
The company has developed a unique process – drying seaweed at a low temperature using air, saving all the nutritional values, green coloration and typical seaweed odour. After water evaporation, a product with a moisture content of 10-12% is obtained.
From here, products can be manufactured to suit individual customers with sizes ranging from 250 microns up to 5mm. Seaweed is packed into 25kg or 1t bags and then stored in a clean and dry area.
Sealac complies with Irish and EU regulations for the traceability and hygiene control at the different stages of the production process for each business sectors. The raw material supply is completely traceable and each seaweed batch is associated with a geographic area.
Sealac is licensed by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine as a feed manufacturer.