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Trace element deficiencies knock lambs at weaning

Practices such as liming and spreading slurry have led to many trace element deficiencies in grazing around the UK. With many farmers thinking about weaning lambs, a deficiency could cause major losses of up to 200g/day growth rates.

David Thornton, Rumenco Technical Manager explains, “It’s important to avoid any kind of nutritional gap around weaning, as it’s already a period where lambs are under stress and at risk of growth checks.

“Grass is particularly deficient in trace elements at this key time, such as selenium, cobalt, and iodine, as well as vitamins and some major elements. Practices such as liming and spreading slurry have meant natural resources in soils have suffered over time, which could impact lamb growth rates.

“Liming raises the pH of soil to promote grass growth, however, trace elements are more readily available in lower pH soils. My advice would be to provide additional mineral supplementation to recently limed fields, in order to avoid an impact on lamb growth rates at this crucial time.

“A growth check at weaning could mean lambs drop in daily live weight gain (DLWG) from around 300g/day to around only 100g/day. This is equivalent to around 1.4kilos/week, which could make up to a month’s difference to slaughter time.

“All the extra days add up to a big difference on the bottom line.

“Lambs will also be faced with a building parasite burden at this time, which can have a devastating effect on growth rates. The inclusion of diatomaceous earth in CleanSweep can help to keep on top of faecal egg counts, where control strategies are already in place, as well as supporting a balanced nutritional intake filling any deficiencies.”

On-farm trials, supported by Rumenco, showed that weaned lambs supplemented with diatomaceous earth as part of a grazing only diet, had lower faecal egg counts, significantly better daily live weight gains, cleaner fleeces and improvements in foot health, when compared to lambs fed a control diet on identical grazing.

“Although grass is plentiful for most, it’s important not to allow trace element deficiencies to limit lamb performance and cause unnecessary implications,” David concludes.