A Need to Know Basis
“I don’t believe in minerals”, said the farm owner with barely concealed impatience. “My rule”, he added, “If anyone comes up the drive talking minerals is to keep one hand on my wallet and my other hand pointing to the gate”. Oh dear.
Normally I would have been happy to walk away. But, I was there on the behest of the sharemilker. A 20% down cow rate, a very high death rate of newborn calves and real problems with weight management in the herd was causing a lot of grief for the young couple. So I persisted. “What’s all that stuff in the bags over there?” I enquired indicating the pallets of causmag, limeflour, salt and DCP. “Sure is a lot of minerals for someone who doesn’t believe in it”, I pointed out. “Those aren’t minerals.” He explained, “Those over there are minerals”. He pointed to a rotting half- full bag of hardened substance lying beneath a pile of empty causmag bags. The penny dropped, the minerals he was alluding to were the ‘trace elements’
And to be charitable to him, the trace element market is full of dealers each with their unique pitch on the subject. This one has organic copper, this one has yeast selenium, this one has amino acid zinc for extra absorption. Not to mention manganese, boron, nickel, chromium and don’t forget the extra vitamins, more vitamins, different vitamins. Biological! Scientific! Quantum! Oh jeez! I guess, ignorance can really be bliss.
So anyway, you made the purchase (because you really needed that crockpot) and ran them though the dispenser. After three months you couldn’t quite put your finger on any change, ran out of minerals, never got around to reordering and didn’t really notice too much difference. Hmmm, not believing in trace elements can be understandable.
Current approaches to trace elements are plagued by gross generalisations, old wives’ tales, and lazy science which has been repeated often enough to now be accepted as fact. This state of affairs does farmers and our animals a huge disservice. It’s a shame really because undiagnosed trace element deficiencies (and I diagnose plenty of them) are a critical risk factor in all of the production diseases.
What is happening at the cellular level of the animal? How do the biochemical pathways work? What influences energy efficiency? What impacts on the immune response? This is the stuff of trace elements. Make no mistake, ensuring trace element sufficiency is a key driver of health and efficiency of our producing animals.
Implementing a rational supplementation programme is simply essential. Unfortunately, a few blood samples don’t give you the full picture. Matching feed mineral supply and animal demand means you get it right for your herd and see results.
There is an old African proverb, "Not to know is bad. Not to wish to know is worse"