Improving calving percentages is far from easy when there is a low mineral element in a farm's forage, but it can be achieved with the right mineral supplement.

Over the years, the father and son farming partnership of Dougie and Duncan Wilson have been working on the mineral intake of their 238 cow suckler herd from Huntly, which in a typical year could see up to 25 fail to hold to the bull.

However, since they started using Harbro's Super Suckler to the breeding herd, they have not only seen cow health improve but also fertility, with the result that only eight were not in calf this year.

Super Suckler, which is formulated to maximise health and fertility, boost calf vitality and help prevent grass staggers, was fed as a powder over the winter when inside and as a bucket when on grass and there was an increase of just over 7% in the calving rate in 2017. Calving also produced a record number of breeding stock.

“Super Suckler is the only element we have changed, so it’s a good control test of the difference it has made," said Duncan.

"It has definitely been a game changer for us and the slightly higher input costs have been balanced out by the output with an extra 17 calves to sell this year. The higher proportion of breeding stock also means lower culling and replacement costs, and feed costs will be split between more calves, which all helps our bottom line."

Super Suckler provides a full complement of key vitamins and trace elements, and this year the Wilsons removed the Hi Mag bucket they were using (from a competitor) as, in discussion with Harbro adviser John Taylor, they realised that the 12.5% magnesium in Super Suckler would be adequate to prevent against staggers. In fact, the higher intake of magnesium could have been having a negative effect on calving.

“The Wilsons had never seen this increase in performance, but it’s proof of how important minerals and nutrition are to overall efficiency. By working closely with farmers we can gain an exact understanding of the farm, analyse where there are deficiencies, and overcome the issues with appropriate mineral boosts.

"In the Wilson’s case, the protected elements in Super Suckler’s Sel-plex, Cu-tek, Zin-tek and its elevated levels of iodine made this the right solution for them. I was confident it would have great results, but you know when you’ve made a difference when the farmer contacts you to share the results before you contact them,” commented John Taylor

The Wilsons also finished calving much earlier this year, another asset of the mineral which tightens the total calving period, improving overall performance and making it easier to manage for the farmer. Traditionally calving finishes late June for the Wilsons, but this year the final cow calved on May 28.

Feeding Super Suckler pre and post calving ensures that the suckler cow is receiving a nutrient balanced diet during the vital period of production combatting any deficiencies in the available forage, contributing towards easier calving, less mortality, improved colostrum quality and milk production.

Other assets of the mineral included reduced recovery period after calving in preparation for next service, improving first conception and re-starting the oestrus cycle, helping to improve egg viability and embryo survival.

However, the company admitted every farm’s needs are different and the team of on-farm advisers work closely with Harbro technical team lead by Willie Thomson to analyse individual farms and find appropriate solutions for each one, with the ultimate aim maximise performance and efficiency.