Mineral deficiency in calves – know the right bolus

Agridirect offers some advice on the best mineral boluses for calves at weaning time.

Weaning calves – what’s all the doom and gloom about?

Some calves start to fail the moment they come off mother’s milk. You put them out on pasture and you notice the change almost immediately. Sometimes weight loss comes with the onset of infectious diseases that set the animal back even further. All too often, calves don’t make it past this stage at all.

We’ve all had to deal with the unexpected loss of weanling calves, time and time again.

And although it is hard not to despair of weak weanlings that seem prone to just about every ailment imaginable, we should also recognize that disastrous outcomes have preventable causes. The sudden removal of milk from a calf’s diet places enormous stress on its young body. Unless grass quality is of an extremely high quality, chances are that your weanlings are deficient in some crucial minerals. Insufficient copper in a calf’s diet, for example, is one of the leading causes of ill-thrift in calves on Irish farms. A lack of cobalt, on the other hand, can lead to a loss of appetite and a range of health complications.

Other health problems are usually attributed to deficiency in various elements. We know that selenium deficiency is a key factor in the development of white muscle disease. The absence of sufficient iodine in the diet causes metabolic diseases, poor weight gain, and a weakened immune system.

So what to do?

The most effective way to maintain calf health is to administer a mineral bolus at the point of weaning. In order to know the right bolus to deliver, it is always a good idea to have your soil tested, so you know what minerals your land may be lacking. You should then purchase boluses that are high in the minerals that your soil lacks. This will give your calves a good head start.

What’s the right bolus for me?

Knowing the right bolus for your land is crucial. To help you make the right choice, the following guide to our three favourite boluses should come in handy.

Allsure Calf 001
Allsure calf boluses

For the overall provision of essential minerals, you can’t go wrong with Allsure Calf Boluses. Coming from a tried and trusted manufacturer, these boluses are the ultimate mineral supplement for calves. A single dose provides six months’ constant supply of copper, selenium, cobalt and iodine.

For optimal results, you should administer the bolus shot just before weaning. The bolus uses a slow-release system that works in four stages. First of all, it enters the first stomach and releases the rods stored within. The rods are stored in the calf’s 1st, 2nd and 3rd stomachs. It is the acid in the 4th stomach that dissolves the rods. Once dissolved, the rods pass through to the intestine where they are absorbed into the animal’s system.

If you decide to purchase these boluses, you should deliver the capsule using the custom made Allsure Balling Gun.

Smartrace Plus Calf001
SmallTrace Calf Boluses

24.7 Smartrace Plus Calf Boluses are another excellent mineral supplement for young calves. They provide a constant supply of minerals over a 180-day period. Like the Allsure product, these boluses are high in copper, selenium, cobalt and iodine.

In addition, 24.7 Smartrace Plus Calf Boluses have been tested in field trials. The findings from these studies have been posted in various peer reviewed scientific journals, and have shown the maintenance of copper and selenium levels in calves.

Coprac from Animax is a product that can be used as a supplement for ewes as well as calves. If you suspect a serious copper deficiency in your calves, you may need to consider using it.

Copinox Coprac 001
Coprac (Copinox)

Coprac is a high-quality ruminal capsule. It provides a slow-release supplementation of copper, and should be applied where animals’ copper intake is low. Each capsule contains 4g copper oxide rods equivalent to 3.4 g copper.

This product provides its mineral release using copper oxide needles. After administration of the bolus, a proportion of the copper oxide rods lodges in the folds of the animal’s stomach lining. This allows for a sustained, slow-release source of copper to supplement your animal’s diet. This slow, steady release ensures adequate copper status.

At the same time, however, it avoids the sharp rises in copper levels which can lead to copper toxicity.

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