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Friday, 24 February 2017

What impact are mineral decisions having on your bottom line?

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Just like soil, if your stock don’t have the required amounts of the right minerals (including trace elements) their productivity will be negatively affected. It is a balancing act to make sure your stock have everything they need to perform, without compromising farm profitability.

Combining mineral information from dietary inputs and animal testing gives you the opportunity to establish customised mineral programmes best suited to meet your stock needs. Irrespective of your farming operation, following this simple process will help maximise animal performance.

Developing a balanced mineral programme

Start by collecting information on the key minerals from:

  • Animal and pasture tests.
  • Other non-pasture feed supplements.
  • Other mineral inputs.

Animal testing is the definitive way to confirm where there may be shortfalls in your current mineral programme. Liver, blood, and tissue samples all provide important information. Some tests will be better than others in terms of the results they provide e.g. liver copper is preferable than blood copper. It’s also important to ensure the sample is representative of the herd (or flock). Animals should be on the farm for several weeks before testing. Avoid testing sick, old, diseased, or recently treated animals.

Mineral interactions, physiological differences, and animal disease can all have an adverse effect on mineral uptake, that’s why herbage samples are the next best source of information. While they won’t always directly relate to levels in your stock, they will give a good indication of where issues may occur.

To get the most from herbage tests, it is important that samples are taken from grass that is actively growing - when moisture and temperature are not limiting pasture growth. Samples should always represent what your animals are actually eating. Collect samples from a number of paddocks across the farm to get a clearer picture of the farm’s mineral balance. At best it will only be a snap-shot of a particular point in time.

Non-pasture supplements, such as PKE and fodder beet, will impact on the mineral budget. Some supplementary feed options have known mineral anomalies: PKE has a relatively high copper content, while maize is low in sodium, calcium, and magnesium. It is important to account for these variables, when feeding these supplements in large amounts over an extended period of time, because this will impact on stock mineral levels.

Other mineral inputs, including drenches, injections and fertiliser additives, will also affect the mineral budget, so make sure these are discussed with a trusted advisor.

Ravensdown animal health advisors can help you build a full picture of your farm’s mineral position and customise a programme to optimise stock productivity.