My Beef stock are not doing so well at the moment. Could trace elements be contributing to this?

My Beef stock are not doing so well at the moment. Could trace elements be contributing to this?
By Alise Inger, Veterinarian, Anexa Vets Maramarua

Along with adequate protein and energy, cattle need at least 14 different macro and micro minerals to survive and thrive. The soil types and trace element levels in our farms soils vary widely throughout New Zealand and even within regions. The mineral loads in the soils then dictate what is available for the plants to uptake and therefore what is available for the animals to eat. This is further compounded by plant or crop type, climate factors and fertiliser use. There are 4 trace elements that are economically important in New Zealand’s pasture-based farming systems. These are Copper (Cu), Cobalt (Co), Iodine (I), and Selenium (Se).

How can I assess if my trace element supplementation is enough?

Samples can be taken from either live animals (blood or liver biopsy) or a liver sample can be taken from animals at the works.

Testing in the Autumn is a good opportunity to get works liver samples from the dry cows (and while you are requesting TE testing why not also ask your Anexa vet about looking for liver fluke or facial eczema damage to the liver?). By testing in the autumn we can see if these animals have enough liver copper stores to carry them through the winter. Copper levels decrease in the pasture over the winter hitting their lowest in the early spring. This leads to depletion in the animals grazing that pasture, especially the pregnant animals who have a higher demand for copper due to foetal skeletal and organ development. Selenium and B12 can also be tested on the works liver samples. B12, Vitamin B12 or cyanocobalamin is the product of cobalt metabolism and is used to assess cobalt levels in the animal.

If you are not sending animals to the works we can take a blood sample to check Selenium, Iodine and B12 levels and then also take a liver biopsy from a live animal for Copper.

How can I supplement my animals to get optimal growth and production?

Supplementation can be provided through Injections of the trace elements, Intra ruminal boluses, (these can be of either one trace element like Copper capsules or of several trace elements like All trace boluses), the inclusion of trace elements in fertiliser regimes can improve pasture levels of trace elements. Less reliably in beef systems trace elements can be provided in the form of lick blocks or in the water troughs.

Trace element monitoring, supplementation and requirements vary from farm to farm. This is because every farm is different with its history, soil types, stock classes, pasture and crop types, along with a wide variety of other factors. If you are wanting to find out more information or to check out where your trace element status stands, contact your local Anexa Vet and we can help you out.

Date Added: Wednesday, 31st March 2021