After a recent period of unpredictable weather conditions such as heavy snowfall, in some places, many are now experiencing what seems like an early mild spring. With the increased nutritional demands that this brings to ewes prior to lambing, farmers are being advised to introduce a trace element bolus programme, which will offer effective supplementation to support immunity, promote lamb vigour and reduce the risk of swayback.

“Focussing on energy and protein is obviously critical at this time but let’s not forget the impact trace elements have on the animal utilising her nutrition effectively, especially at lambing time when her needs are elevated.

“Having a pregnant ewe with trace element deficiencies can lead to costly health issues for both the ewe and her lambs,” stresses Dr Elizabeth Berry, Animax company veterinary director. “Animal performance can be significantly affected, and yet it can easily be avoided with the introduction of a trace element leaching bolus before lambing.

“By ensuring the ewe is nutritionally prepared for the demands of lambing, you will see her in better condition for milk supply and recovery. This has an immediate benefit to the lamb, which will be given a better start to life – impacting future growth rate and vigour."

She said that one particular trace element that is associated with sheep farming is copper. Copper deficiency is a common issue for various reasons such as low copper levels or high levels of antagonists or even both.

Pregnancy increases the demand for copper and so it is important to ensure sufficient copper is available at this time. Copper deficiency can result in swayback in lambs; which is not treatable and can lead to huge costs through unsaleable lambs and a reduced number of replacements. It is important, however, to work with your vet on copper supplementation, as she said, there is considerable breed variation with respect to copper absorption and therefore to copper deficiency and toxicity.

Selenium, cobalt and iodine, are also important at this time with the best way of administering these elements being through a leaching bolus.

"Often, with trace element deficiencies, the clinical signs are not seen until after the crucial time of supplementation. Giving a trace element leaching bolus before lambing protects ewes from suffering deficiencies at this critical period and the benefits will then be seen over the coming months.

“Don’t overlook this key area of nutrition. Trace elements are essential for energy production, growth, and the nervous system – so have a major impact on animal performance.

“The sheep industry is experiencing a challenging time and so it’s imperative that inputs that are proven to improve efficiencies and performance are considered. Introducing a bolus in to your flock management plan offers this and will play a role in overall farm profitability,” she concluded.