Nutrient deficiencies are a common cause of fertility and health problems in cattle, and can also cause serious calving difficulties. Jane Brown looks at the main nutrients to consider.
If the cow is healthy she will produce good quality colostrum and pass on immunity to her calf.
“A healthy calf and fertile cow are lynchpins to profitable beef farming, so it is essential their nutritional needs are met throughout the year.”
Dennis and Margaret Boles, who have farmed at Dunsland Farm, Okehampton, Devon, for more than 40 years, suffered with serious calving problems in 2011.
Mr Boles says: “We had occasional problems before that, but in 2011 we calved 35 Limousins and lost three cows and three calves.
“We had tremendous problems with uterine prolapses. It was just horrendous and it cost a lot of money,” Mr Boles adds.
As the Boles’ vet was unsure of the cause, they had their silage analysed to see if there was a nutritional cause. The silage turned out to be deficient in selenium and other trace elements, exacerbated by the wet nature of the hill pasture.
In an effort to address these deficiencies, the couple – who farm with their son Andrew - invested in a calver tub, a concentrated mineral supplement targeted at transition cows.
“It completely solved the problem,” says Mr Boles. “We have had four years of calving to the same bull since then and only had one prolapse, which was due to a mis-presented calf. The calves are definitely born a lot wetter than they were, so they come out a lot more easily.”
With the couple now seeking a slightly easier life, reduced calving interventions are particularly welcome.
“It is much kinder on the cows and heifers because they are not struggling, and we hardly ever have to intervene,” says Mr Boles.
“Getting the feeding right matters more than anything.”