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BEEF Magazine is the source for beef production, management and market news.
February 15, 2017
Change is in the air. Whether it be change with markets or change in Washington, DC, it can seem that uncertainty is the new normal. However, we can be certain of one thing, proper nutrition and supplementation of your cattle herd is more important than it has ever been. With the cattle markets down, it can be tempting to look for places to cut costs. Nutrition should never be on that list. Here’s why.
Trace Mineral Source
The dynamics of trace minerals in the gut is truly fascinating. A person could spend hours discussing all the possible interactions that occur between any given trace mineral in a supplement and antagonists in the environment. Therefore, the source (type) of trace mineral in the supplement matters; especially if the animals are already deficient, high producing or stressed. Trace minerals in the sulfate and oxide forms are generally the most familiar sources found in cattle supplements. (As a side note: copper oxide is 100% unavailable to all livestock.) However, both forms need to be bound to a transporter in the gut to be absorbed by the animal. The advantage of including chelated/organic trace minerals is two-fold;
No interaction with antagonists in the gut,
They are already bound to an amino acid/protein, or other ligand, and can be absorbed when they reach the site of absorption in the small intestine.
How does this apply to pregnant cows? Two main points;
Calves are born with copper stores in the liver to assist with immune function. If the dam is deficient, the calf will be deficient as well.
Colostrum quality has been shown to be higher in cows who have been supplemented than those who haven’t, contributing to passive immunity in the calf.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that immune function is tied to nutrition. Copper and zinc play key roles in proper immune and vaccine responses, selenium and vitamin E are important to cell wall integrity and antioxidant function. However, as trace mineral status of the animal starts to decline, immune function is the first thing that is given up. As you can see in the graph, by the time you see outward signs of deficiency, you’ve also lost growth and fertility performance, and ultimately money.
Why throw gut health in? The small intestine does a lot more than just absorb nutrients. It is its own microbiome of beneficial and pathogenic bacteria, with a layer of mucus and epithelial cells to keep the pathogenic bacteria at bay. The small intestine is also home to the immune system. A large proportion of the pathogenic fighting cells can be found in the mucus layer in the small intestine.
How do we keep the gut healthy? When it comes to calves, it’s all about how healthy mom is. If she’s in a good state of health and nutrition, she will be able to pass more on to the calf in the colostrum (immune function). The environment plays a part as well, as the calf will pick up bacteria from its surroundings.
However, you can stack the deck in your favor by using pre- and pro-biotics. A probiotic is a live microorganism that is directly introduced to the animal. Using probiotics can promote the development of beneficial bacteria, prevent pathogens from colonizing, help gut tissue develop better and improve mucosal immune function. A prebiotic is a non-digestible feed ingredient that alters the environment in the small intestine, making it better for the beneficial bacteria.
Why does it matter?
Calving can be chaotic and stressful for everyone involved. However, keeping the cows on a good quality supplement can give that calf a fighting chance even before it hits the ground;
Improved gut health in the cow (better mineral absorption/transfer to calf)
Improved copper levels in the calf’s liver (early immune function)
Improved colostrum quality (better passive immunity to calf)
What it all boils down to is improving overall health of your cattle. Healthy herd = happy rancher.
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