IT has been another long, hard winter on suckler farms the length and breadth of Northern Ireland. The Spring calving season is on the horizon and for every herdowner it represents that one occasion in the year when everything must go right.
The newborn calf represents the only pay cheque that the suckler farmer can rely on, year in, year out. Its size depends on the health and viability of the calf that is born.
What’s more, the health of both mother and her calf at calving will determine the growth rates achieved by the new arrival and the dam’s ability to produce future offspring.
The good news is that decisions taken by herdowners during the dry period will have a direct impact on these outcomes.
According to research carried out in Ireland, spring-calving suckler cows need to receive dry cow minerals for four to six weeks prior to calving.
Trace element deficiencies, especially copper, iodine and selenium have been variously associated with stillbirths, peri-natal mortality, retained placentas and a reduced resistance to scours, pneumonia, and navel and joint problems.
In short, making sure suckler cows are fed enough micronutrients in the run-up to calving is vital to ensure cow and calf health isn’t compromised. So how can producers manage their dry cows in ways that make all this possible in the most effective way possible?
The good news is that Crystalyx Pre-Calver is perfect for feeding to both dairy and beef cows during the dry period as it provides a low calcium/high magnesium diet which greatly reduces the risk of milk fever and slow calving.
The increased levels of magnesium contained in Crystalyx Pre-Calver helps improve muscle tone. Inadequate levels can lead to slow calving syndrome where calving can be difficult and prolonged.
David Morgan, from Caltech-Crystalyx, takes up the story: “Many dry cows receive no special attention in the run-up to calving and are often expected to get by on silage-only diets.
“This is a mistake. Silages are notoriously deficient in a number of trace elements and trace minerals that are critically important when it comes to maintaining cow and calf health in the run-up to and post calving.
“In addition, soil contamination of these forages can act to bind up the minerals that are in the forages.
“This further exacerbates the mineral deficiency challenges that are confronting cows.
“Dry cows put out on early spring pasture are equally exposed to mineral and trace element deficiency scenarios.”
He continued: “For a very small investment in Crystalyx Pre-Calver, these forage diets can be supplemented to ensure there are no nutritional deficiencies, thereby helping the dry cow to achieve optimum condition prior to calving.
“Research carried out in New Zealand showed that giving access of Crystalyx Pre-Calver to cows significantly reduced the incidences of milk fever, mastitis and the need for assisted calving.”
David concluded: “Additional research undertaken at the University of Parma has shown that Crystalyx Pre-Calver substantially increases colostrum quality and the volume of milk she is able to produce during the first 100 days after calving.”
This page is available to subscribers. Click here to sign in or get access.