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Don’t overlook pre-calving minerals in Suckler cows

20 December 2019
Type Media Article

By Seán Doorley, Drystock Advisor, Teagasc Longford.

The next six weeks will be one of the most important periods in the calendar for your Spring calving suckler cows. We have to ensure we have the cow set up to give birth to a healthy calf and keep calf mortality under 5%. One important factor over this period is to ensure the cow is getting adequate minerals in her diet.

Where cows are between 2.5-3 on body condition score they can be fed moderate quality grass silage (65-67 DMD) to appetite. Generally you won’t be feeding these cows meal. Mineral levels in Irish silage are very variable. Many factors such as soil types, cutting date, old permanent pasture versus newly reseeded grass and the level of fertility of soils can leave grass silage deficient in many major and minor minerals. So because of this it is important that you feed pre-calver minerals 4-6 weeks before calving. Pre-calver minerals can be fed by dusting on top of the silage, through water, trace elements can be supplied in boluses (but this will not cover for major elements), molassed mineral buckets and in a carrier ration. Mineral licks buckets or blocks are more expensive and intake among the cows is more variable than loose mineral spread on the silage. Don’t feed last year’s minerals. Ensure feeding rate is correct so weigh it out. Feeding rate is around 120 grams per day. If you are top dressing on silage do it at least twice a day. Ensure there is adequate feeding space with at least 1.5-2.0 foot or 0.5 - 0.66m per cow. Don’t feed any other mineral mix for example fertility mineral mixes to pre-calvers as the excess calcium combined with low magnesium in the diet of pre-calving cows can result in milk fever immediately after calving. Feeding pre-calver mineral mix will ensure improved quality of colostrum and a lively calf at birth which goes a long way to ensuring that calf has sufficient antibodies to help fight infection for example against scour and pneumonia.

Teagasc Roscommon/Longford wish all our clients a very Happy Christmas and we look forward to seeing you all again in the New year. Teagasc provides a Local Advisory and Education service to farmers. They have offices based in Roscommon Town  (Tel: 090 6626166), Castlerea (Tel: 094 9620160) and Longford Town (Tel: 043 3341021), You can find us on Facebook @Teagascroscommonlongford.