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As grass growth rate and quality starts its usual decline over the later summer months, autumn calving suckler herds are being urged to monitor cow condition score closely this year.

“Calving beef cattle in the autumn invariably coincides with a period of decreasing grass availability and quality, so this can be challenging for some herds. The best approach is to always aim for a target cow body condition score of 2.5 to 3.0 at calving and supplement your forage stocks, as necessary,” advises Jacob Lakin from Azelis Animal Nutrition.

Mr Lakin says that it is also important to feed post calving cows well – both to deliver a 10 litre per day milk yield for the calf and ensure optimum fertility when returning to the bull.

“Any supplementary silage should be provided ad lib with up to 5kg per head per day of concentrates depending on the forage quality in front of the cows. The overall diet should contain in the region of 11MJ of ME per kg of dry matter and 12% crude protein – and be supplemented with key trace minerals,” he adds.

An adequate intake of copper and zinc is particularly important, he says. “Supplementary copper is important for fertility, milk production and growth; while zinc is essential for tissue formation and skin integrity. In addition, both minerals help boost enzyme formation and immunity.”

Unfortunately, Mr Lakin also points out that both copper and zinc can be locked up in the diet, due to various antagonisms with other minerals, which means use of high-quality chelated forms of these two crucial minerals must be considered to ensure optimum availability to the cow.

“For example, the use of high mineral content chelates such as the Plexomin® organic trace elements – that come with a 29% mineral content – ensures a high level of protection from other mineral antagonists in the diet. It also means excellent delivery of copper and zinc to the small intestine for absorption into the bloodstream.”

He adds that feeding highly bioavailable chelated forms of organic trace elements removes the need to feed high levels of inorganic minerals. “Consequently, any risk of toxicity to the animal and/or undesirable excretion into the environment is being minimised.”

Autumn calving suckler producers should consult with their usual nutritional adviser if they have particular concerns about maintaining target cow condition score this autumn.