Over the last number of weeks, one of the most common signs of mineral deficiencies in dairy cows has been Pica: a desire to eat things that do not have any nutritional value. A record number of dairy farmers are reporting that their cows are unsettled and licking and chewing foreign objects such as stones, plastic and clay.
While there is little research on Pica, it is generally thought there are three main causes: a lack of phosphorus, sodium, or the incidence of rumen acidosis. A sodium deficiency tends to occur in grazed grass due to an oversupply of potash, while a phosphorus deficiency is usually caused by a low index of phosphorus in the soil or rapid grass growth rates. Rumen acidosis is far more prominent in grass-based systems than we think; due to the emphasis on the production of high D-value grass with low fibre levels. Current research into the inclusion of multi-species such as plantain and chicory indicates that they help to counter this.
Addressing phosphorus and sodium deficiencies
To address the phosphorus and sodium deficiencies, we recommend supplying salt licks to your cows that contain a high level of phosphorus. Here at Agritech, we supply a Mineral Salt Lick containing 10% Phosphorus, which is ideal for this purpose. This will address all three causes of Pica, allowing the cow to produce extra saliva, and in turn, counteract rumen acidosis at some level. The availability of top-quality hay can also prove useful, as will the inclusion of our Rumicare Rumen Buffer in the diet where possible.
Supplementing spring born calves
Another key area to keep an eye on at this time of the year is spring born dairy bred calves, particularly those who have been raised on whole milk. While milk replacer contains added levels of trace elements in vitamins, whole milk contains very low levels of these key elements. With this in mind, it is important that calves are supplemented with minerals as it is highly likely that they will begin to become depleted.
Free choice mineral buckets are a convenient way of administering minerals and vitamins to young stock, or alternatively, some minerals can be added to calf rations. Our Super Thrive Mineral buckets and our Multiboost Powder Minerals are both very high spec supplements, essential for achieving optimum vigour and health in young stock.
For more information, please visit www.agritech.ie