Trace minerals and your cow

Trace element nutrition is sometimes seen as the realms of the rep who is trying to flog the latest and greatest product to hit the market.

Many involved with livestock see trace elements as being the problem (or solution) to poor performance and a host of other problems within herds. Although they can be a contributor, there are many other management decisions that play key roles in the outcomes we see. Trace minerals (TM) can indeed be beneficial but they are a part of the solution, not the whole!

TM requirements for livestock can be found from many sources for example the National Research Council (NRC) publications. It is therefore relatively easy to find out what is “required”, but it is important to note that many recommendations for requirements are based around a range of values with a minimum value, below which deficiency will occur; and a maximum value, above which signs of toxicity will be observed. The requirement is therefore often a middle ground figure between these two values. Very little scientific work has been done to evaluate what/where subclinical production losses occur between these values of deficiency and excess, and even less has been done to evaluate where exactly, between these two values, production gains cease, i.e. where the optimal level is!

Reactions can occur between various minerals, so we need to be aware of what is in the system already to ensure that we are targeting our supplementation in the correct way, i.e. do we need an organic or inorganic to make the most difference? Undertaking mineral analysis of feeds and soils so that we can understand what may potentially be interacting with the minerals we might be feeding is a key part in tailoring our choices.

To summarise mineral supplementation in a limited space is itself limiting; knowing what we are trying to achieve and what we are working with/around is necessary to get the best outcome. Also key here is how we deliver that solution, is it through the water, feed or via injections or other means?

Continual daily dosing is the best means of supplementing trace minerals, worked out in parts per million (ppm) of the daily dry matter intake and then provided through either the feed (best option), water (next best) or via other means (boluses/injections etc). If we have this nailed down, we can look at how we can maximise effects of the trace minerals by giving a boost at strategic times when the pressure comes on! Even under the best supplementation regimens when periods of stress or high demand occur, we need to make sure we lift the levels of key trace elements that can have beneficial effects.

An example of this is the use of Multimin® around calving and mating. A study undertaken in New Zealand (D. Hawkins 2007) showed that in a cohort of 2000+ cows that were considered adequate for selenium and copper, administration of 5ml Multimin® four weeks prior to calving and again four weeks prior to mating saw a 3.3% increase in the in calf rate in the treatment group vs the control group (not treated), and a 3.4 day earlier conception rate (return on investment approx. 4:1 at a $4.00 payout). This backs up additional data that suggests further supplementation (a boost) at critical times, lifts response as we meet the increased demands of the immune system when it matters most.

If you would like to discuss trace minerals, or see how use of Multimin® could help, please discuss with your veterinarian, now is the time to plan for how it could help boost your herd.

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