Livestock farmers are being urged to ensure that nutritional needs are met as spring grass growth accelerates and trace element intakes maybe compromised.

According to the latest figures from AHDB, grass growth is ahead of last year, due to the very recent warm weather which has been good news especially for farmers with low forage stocks. However, with high grass growth there can be a dilution of trace elements in the grass which means that less selenium, iodine and cobalt is available to the animal, according to Dr Elizabeth Berry company veterinary director with Animax.

She added that protein levels also increase in rapidly growing grass, which leads to an increase in sulphur in the plant and which is an antagonist of copper – so there are many new challenges that high grass growth brings. Therefore, unless diets with a high reliance on grass are addressed, there can be significant drops in performance.

“It is often assumed that grass is a cheap food source – however, it is only cheap if it is providing the right nutrition to result in profitable performance," said Dr Berry.

“Summer nutrition needs the same focus and attention as winter nutrition, and by making small adjustments, substantial gains can be made.

“Remember, trace elements are essential for cell metabolism which affects energy, production, growth, reproduction and the nervous system – so has a significant impact on animal performance."

She added that 2018 has already proved to be an incredibly challenging year and farmers now need to focus on utilising the grass available to them and prepare for the winter ahead, and that any silage made with grass which has reduced levels of trace elements will have the same dietary issues, which may not be seen until later in the year.

"I would advise farmers to balance the diet and ensure their animals have the correct trace elements now and for later in the year. A very easy way to address this issue is to deliver trace elements in a slow release bolus, such as the Tracesure® leaching boluses from Animax. This offers a reliable and consistent supply over a six-month period. It’s a hassle-free way of eliminating uncertainly and leaves you to focus on other aspects of management," she said.