ACT now or some dairy and suckler beef herds will face calving problems over the next three months as a legacy of plentiful high quality grass this past summer, asserts vet Dr Elizabeth Berry from Animax.
She says a recent and widespread rise in calving difficulties identified by SAC Consulting adviser Basil Lowman indicates that many cows are carrying surplus weight into late pregnancy.
To avert problems before they arise, Elizabeth advises farmers to focus on body condition scores and trace element supplementation leading up to and during the dry period. But before making any changes, she insists that farmers discuss them with their vet or specialist feed adviser.
A NADIS Animal Health Skills fact sheet recommends a lean and fit condition score 2.5 to 3.0 at calving. It offers expert advice about assessing and managing cow condition, and can be downloaded from bit.ly/2pgSdo8
For trace element status, Elizabeth Berry says all farmers will know from past experience whether their soils are copper deficient and that supplementation is needed. “But for other trace elements, it isn’t as obvious,” she says. “Many deficiencies are subclinical and not easily noticed. Among the losses they cause are calving difficulties, weak calves, impaired fertility and reduced milk production.”
Among a variety of methods, including drenches, free access licks or in-feed powders, Elizabeth suggests that continuous release, long duration supplementation is easy and reliable. “For example, Tracesure cattle boluses lodge in the base of the rumen, releasing a ‘trickle-charge’ of essential selenium, cobalt and iodine, with or without copper depending on the farmer’s choice, for up to 180 days.”
She reports that farmers’ comments are typically encouraging: “Since giving these boluses at drying off,” said one, “our cows are in much better condition at re-breeding three to four months later. As a result, the herd calving interval has certainly improved.”
All Animax boluses have been independently trialled by Teagasc, the Irish Agriculture and Food Development Authority at Moorepark, County Cork.