How to boost dry cow immunity levels

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Silage analyses from around the country are confirming a significant reduction in the quality of forage available to local dairy farmers this winter.

And according to Alltech ruminant specialist Colm Duffy, this will have major implications regarding the feeding strategies implemented for dairy cows in the run up to calving over the coming weeks.

“Even in a good year the forages produced on Northern Irish farms are lacking in many of the trace elements required by dry cows.

“As a consequence, one of the keys to ensuring a trouble free calving period and a smooth transition into lactation is the selection of the correct dry cow mineral package, one which is capable of overcoming the level of deficiency that will occur in silages and other feeds.”

Over the last number of years, Alltech has carried out mineral analyses on hundreds of Irish silage samples. This work has confirmed significant deficiency levels in copper, zinc, manganese and, particularly, selenium. This, in turn predisposes cows to a host of metabolic disorders post calvng. Obviously, these deficencies must be corrected. However, Alltech has been to the fore in identifying the need to supply these minerals in an organic or ‘bioplex form, in order to maximise their bioavailability.

“Simply adding these minerals to pre calver diets in an inorganic form will not suffice,” Duffy commented.

“As a consequence large numbers of cows have been offered minerals in a wholly inappropriate form, one which has ensured their non-utilisation by the animals and thereafter, their excretion into the environment.

“The inability of cows to build sufficient reserves of these trace elements in the dry period, result in them suffering from metabolic disorders as they go through transition and into lactation as they have an inadequately prepared immune system.”

Colm went on to point out that research carried out by Alltech has led to the development of organic trace elements, or bioplexes, the most effective being the Bioplex® and Sel-Plex® range from Alltech. “We now know that the total replacement of these elements with their bioplex equivalent is the most cost effective way of combating trace mineral deficiency problems,” he said.

“Many farmers across Northern Ireland are now experiencing incredibly positive responses in their herd by taking this approach by opting for the TRT package in their dry cow mineral pre-mix.”