To combat these problems an understanding of mineral ratios and their effect on animal nutrition is very important. Common practice in countries that house their animals for winter is to test all the feeds, calculate any deficit and add the missing ingredients. Here in New Zealand this is a little different because to test each paddock before we put the stock in and calculate the deficiency and make up a mineral supplement is near on impossible and very costly.
There are predictable similarities in seasonal pasture mineral content on most farms in New Zealand. The winter periods are the time when it is most important to get the mineral balance correct for optimum health for the upcoming new born lambs or calves. Usually, because of our grass dominated pasture swards we have a deficit of calcium, magnesium, sodium and an excess of potassium. Other factors that have not been taken into account are the benefits of minerals such as silica which is essential in nerve and bone construction and the necessity of all the minor trace minerals and rare earth minerals that are present in the ocean for physical and genetic well being. These are the building blocks of our ongoing production and reproduction and our animals need the best mineral nutrition to realise their genetic potential.
Supplying such a wide variety of minerals in one hit is like taking a sawn off shotgun and hoping for the best, yet experience tells us that there are general trends in pasture composition and mineral availability over the winter and early spring period with predictable results. Any substance that is created in the ocean holds minerals and trace minerals in natures intended balance so mineral antagonisms are avoided.
Ecofarm Aotearoa has formulated Vitus Animal lick which is a combination of Dolomite (23% Calcium and 11% Magnesium) Ocean Elements that contain all essential cell mineral salts and over 70 other elements, Amorphous Silica, Sea Salt and Kelp meal. This certainly cannot be taken as the be all and end all of mineral supplements because there will still be problems such as copper deficiency which will have to be looked at on a farm by farm basis and amended, in the interim, with a mineral programme whilst addressing pasture species diversity.
The main purpose of Vitus is to cover as many bases as possible in one easy to use mix. Farmers put the product in a container in the paddock with the stock. They will take what they require under their own steam in order to self-medicate. Certainly when it is first introduced it is quite common for animals to gorge themselves, as they strive to balance their systems then they tend to ease to lower levels as they do. In this way the animals get to regulate their own requirements, which vary throughout the season.
Posted: Tuesday 8 June 2021
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