Thursday, 22 August 2019 12:33

Trace mineral products — spoilt for choice?

Written by  Greg Jarratt, vet and director of Matamata Veterinary Services

What should you keep in mind when choosing trace mineral products? Greg Jarratt, vet and director of Matamata Veterinary Services explains.

Since as early as the 1940’s and 1950’s NZ agricultural research scientists were looking into the common causes of ill thrift in NZ commonly described as ‘peat scours, white muscle disease and bush sickness’. 

At the time these diseases were found to be linked to widespread deficiency in NZ soils of important trace minerals such as copper, selenium and cobalt.

Besides identifying these links there was also development of ‘reference ranges’ for animal tissue sampling (Blood & Liver) that paved the way for accurate diagnosis and treatment of the trace mineral deficiencies.

From this work Veterinarians then used these new reference ranges in routine screening of trace element deficiency, and industry responded by developing multiple commercially available treatment options for NZ producers. These options ranged from application of supplementary fertilisers delivering trace elements to deficient soils through to direct treatment of livestock with boluses, injections and daily supplementation via water supply.

More recently, there has been an ‘explosion’ in number of the water soluble options available to farmers with companies attempting to establish their place in the market, leading to confusion as to which is the best value option. 

Water soluble products can range from as little as 1 – 2 cents per cow per day through to more than 10 cents per cow per day. Often the more expensive options are accompanied with specific claims and anecdotal evidence supporting their efficacy. However, disappointingly this information is seldom based on good robust scientific trial work making it difficult to be able to compare one from the other.

Amongst all this confusion, it is important to keep things simple by remembering:

• The majority of NZ soils are deficient in trace minerals

• Failure to either monitor animals or provide additional trace minerals increases your animals chance of suffering ‘ill thrift’

• The majority of commercially available products are sufficient to bolster levels in most situations to a point where ill thrift is no longer obvious

• As production levels increase the requirement for supplementation increases

• More expensive products claiming additional health benefits require closer scrutiny of the data supplied to ensure you are receiving value for money

• There are a small number of products with some very good science supporting claims specific to improving animal health.

Therefore, by ensuring either trace element monitoring or supplementation (or both!) is in place should in most instances prevent ill thrift, if you are considering going to the next level, make sure you understand the research backing the product.

Your local Veterinarian will be able to provide you with further advice in helping you to decide on what is best for your herd.

This article is brought to you by J. Swap Stockfoods.

• Greg Jarratt is a vet and director of Matamata Veterinary Services.

More like this

Bad winter grazing does do harm

Winter grazing of forage crops is very harmful to the environment, says an AgResearch scientist, Professor Richard McDowell.

Easing cows into winter crops

Successful grazing of crop paddocks is achieved by good management of people, cows and the environment, says DairyNZ.

» The RNG Weather Report


Soil moisture: no more looking over the fence

Farm manager Bryan Mitchell describes as brilliant the SCADAfarm systems that allow him to remotely monitor and manage the irrigation of his 300ha of leased grazing land near Kirwee.


Separation gives constant result

Effluent separation offers a number of unique advantages, and opportunities that other systems don’t offer, says farm equipment manufacturer Rakaia Engineering Ltd (REL) Group.

Cultivating the right way

Cultivation of paddocks is common on farms at this time of year. It’s also a time when local storms may occur, adding substantial risk to an important farming practice.

» The RNG Weather Report

» Latest Print Issues Online

Milking It

Angry as usual

The usual culprits are angry at hearing last week that the Government and the agri sector will work together to…

Vladimir the dairy farmer

Russian President Vladimir Putin is a master tactician in taking advantage of international conflicts.

» Connect with Dairy News