Improving the selenium status of suckler cows with a more effective organic supplement source resulted in a higher health status for both cows and calves, and increased daily gains in calves.

These were the key findings of a study comparing three different selenium supplementation levels carried out with 60 Belgian Blue cows on two farms with low selenium status, carried out by the University of Liege, Belgium.

Forage and concentrate rations contained negligible selenium levels, as is the norm in diets across much of Europe.

As such, Cows were offered 0.1 parts per million (ppm) inorganic sodium selenite, 0.5ppm inorganic sodium selenite and 0.5ppm organic selenium.

Supplementation started 60 days before calving.

Selenium status of cows and their calves on the 0.1ppm inorganic selenium treatment remained below the threshold considered adequate for good health, indicating that standard practice is insufficient.

Of the 0.5ppm selenium treatments, significantly higher plasma selenium levels were achieved by the organic form.

This was reflected in an improved supply from cow to calf with higher selenium status in calves at birth and increased selenium levels in both colostrum and milk, said project co-ordinator Sylvie Andrieu.