A recent on-farm trial has found that a mineral bucket can increase colostrum IgG by 20% when offered for two months prior to calving.

The trial, from January to mid-April 2023 on a UK suckler farm with 43 Simmental cross cows, in previous years relied on a bolus pre calving to provide trace elements and vitamin supplementation.

This year's trial used Lifeline® pre-calver mineral, vitamin, and trace element bucket for in-calf cows and heifers to help optimise the calving process and immunity in the calf. The bucket which contains high levels of magnesium to help optimise calving contraction strength and minimise potential calving problems, also features a blend of nutritional boosters, including lactose, mannan-oligosacharides and beta-glucans to support the cow’s immune function and colostrum quality.

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During the trial one group of cows remained on the farm’s bolus programme, receiving a full spectrum bolus with trace elements and vitamins two months prior to the average calving date.

The other group received no bolus but had free access to the Lifeline® pre-calver buckets for two months before calving, at a ratio of one 22.5kg bucket per 15 head of cattle.

Both groups were managed in the same way, housed on straw, and fed big bale silage and straw ad-lib until calving. Post-calving, all cows were offered ad-lib silage and straw plus 6kg of barley and 1kg of beans. The trial finished on April 19, when all the cows had calved.

Colostrum samples from both cow groups were frozen at calving and sent to an independent laboratory for total IgG analysis. The results revealed that cows on the pre-calver buckets had an average colostrum IgG of 188.2mg/ml compared with 156.5 mg/ml in the bolused cows which represents an increase of 20.3%.

The results show the benefit of supplementing with micronutrients and additional nutritional boosters to support total colostrum production and immunoglobulin concentration. Supplementation for pre-calving herds, especially those on a primarily forage-based diet, can help colostrum quality, calving ease, fertility in the subsequent service period, animal health and liveweight gain are just a few of the factors that will be impacted by micronutrient availability.

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Both the pre-calver buckets and the bolus contained key micronutrients including cobalt, copper, iodine, manganese, selenium, zinc and vitamins A, E and D3.

However, by offering the buckets, cows were able to consume additional quantities of nutritional components not provided for by the bolus.

The Lifeline® pre-calver is fortified with essential minerals including magnesium, phosphorus and sodium. It also contains prebiotic carbohydrates that are derived from yeast cell walls, which may increase total colostrum production and immunoglobulin concentration through stimulation of the innate immune system.

This trial’s findings highlight the potential opportunities to stretch pre-calving supplementation further in order to support a positive effect on maternal colostrum.