Producers are being warned to pay close attention to their livestock’s mineral requirements, as animals are turned out to grass, following an incredibly wet six month period which has left grassland in poor condition in many areas of the country.
“High winter rainfall has caused increased nutrient leaching and generally left soils in poor shape,” says Simon Allen, senior lecturer in crop protection and agronomy at Harper Adams. It’s becoming apparent that plants have lost nutrients, and as a result, grass is likely to be more unbalanced as a feed than usual.
“High winter rainfall has caused increased nutrient leaching and generally left soils in poor shape.”Simon Allen, Senior lecturer, Harper Adams
“There’s a heightened risk that grass could be lacking in essential minerals as we don’t know how many nutrients have been naturally replaced, or the level of soil mineralisation that will have occurred.”
Additionally, wet conditions may have caused damage to plant root structure, which is fundamental for nutrient uptake, explains Simon.
“While localised poaching will be obvious, surface compaction is likely to be widespread, causing serious damage beneath the surface at the root zone. The likelihood of water logging will also lead to anaerobic conditions, which will further compromise the plants ability to uptake essential nutrients.”
Another important consideration is the soil pH adds Simon: “A lot of grassland is acidic and desperately short of lime at the best of times. A wet winter makes this problem worse, and if soil pH is wrong, the nutrient store will be locked up and unavailable to the plant.”
With experts suggesting that grassland has really suffered from high rainfall, Steve Elliott, global director of Mineral Management at Alltech, reiterates the importance of balancing its mineral content to maintain optimum animal health and productivity.
“Ensuring the correct balance of minerals across the diet is essential if livestock is to perform well at grass. Failure to achieve this will result in production drops, not only noticeably in yield, but also in reduced fertility.”
The best source of mineral supplement is an organic form explains Steve: “A chelated form, as provided in Alltech’s Bioplex® range, mimics the natural form of trace minerals and is therefore more efficiently absorbed, stored and utilised by the animal.
“Whether added to a concentrate ration, combined with a buffer feed, or supplemented independently, careful mineral management will be an important factor in maintaining optimum health and productivity this spring.”