Dairy Advice - Winter

Prepare for the Wet - Hidden Deficiencies

When paddocks are sodden and moisture levels go off the chart, even with the best feed budgets animals are likely to be exposed to mineral deficiencies. Those who exercise a little foresight can reduce animal health issues down the line.

The wet winter months can be challenging enough as it is, as you try to ration limited pasture, crops and pasture supplies. It therefore makes sense to try to minimise problems that are very easy to fix – like trace element deficiencies. Regardless of whether your operation is dairy or beef, these mighty minerals are key players that will boost productivity and promote fertility.

“A deficiency of key trace elements such as copper, cobalt and selenium can take months to manifest in the animal,” cautions Paul Sharp, SealesWinslow Science Extension Officer. “That’s because those minerals are stored in the body during times of dietary sufficiency and are mobilised when intakes are low, until reserves are depleted.”

How much is available through forage varies significantly depending on soil type and the pasture, forage or crops being fed. One common issue is soils high in molybdenum (along with sulphur and zinc) reducing copper absorption, making it unavailable from the diet. To further complicate matters, there are also seasonal variations in trace element availability; these can produce a double whammy for minerals that may already be below optimal levels in pasture such as copper, cobalt and selenium.

“Copper availability is particularly compromised during the winter months,” says Paul. Wet soils are easily pugged, and pugging is one of the culprits for depleting animal trace element levels. It’s due to ‘dirt in the diet’, which also happens with winter grazing of crops. The problem lies in high iron levels in the soil, which severely interfere with copper absorption, making it unavailable from the diet.

It’s easy to see why this is important when you consider the metabolic reach of the trace elements and their respective deficiency symptoms. “Copper, cobalt and selenium deficiencies are typical during winter due to dietary depletion. They present during spring as increased retained membranes at calving, low conception rates, poor growth rates and potentially even bone fractures in calves,” explains Paul.

Luckily, mineral supplementation couldn’t be easier! With SealesWinslow’s mineral molasses blocks, pellets or water treatment products, you can kiss mineral deficiencies goodbye.

winter cattle mineral block detail

Cattle Mineral Block

Cattle Mineral Block delivers convenient free access of essential minerals and energy to young cattle to support their growth and development.