Without urgent corrective action, some farms with dairy or suckler beef herds with spring calving cows will face problems over the next three months as a legacy of plentiful high quality grass this summer, according to 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, Dr Berry 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 factsheet 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 https://bit.ly/2pgSdo8.
For trace element status, Dr 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 six months.”