Fine-tune cow element needs

26 February 1999

Fine-tune cow element needs

FINE-TUNING trace element needs of dairy cows can help minimise losses from lameness, high cell counts and poor fertility, according to US researchers.

Roger Hemken, of the University of Kentucky, said balancing trace element requirements of cows ahead of service can improve fertility. "Any improvement has to be welcomed when US breeders have seen Holstein conception rates fall almost by half to 40%."

Although needs vary according to cow size, condition, age and stage in production cycle, several trace elements levels should be checked. Chromium is important for influencing litter size, lactation and oestrus, while selenium and vitamin E cut incidence of cystic ovaries.

"Get minerals levels right, and US trials suggest there is a greater chance of increasing conception rate by up to 7% using organic rather than inorganic minerals," Prof Hemken added.

Also with prospects of housing cows for longer in the UK mooted at the conference, organic zinc was suggested as a good therapy for improving foot condition. "But where cows are showing sub-clinical signs of lameness zinc will have only give a small benefit," he said.

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