Green veld or lush pasture is more palatable and more digestible to livestock and has a higher nutritional content. Palatability and mineral levels decrease in the colder, drier months. Ratselane Marumo of Afrivet says these deficiencies must be corrected, as the importance of minerals in the functions and processes of livestock is significant.
Grass, water and ingested soil are the major mineral sources of veld-raised livestock. However, some parts of South Africa are deficient in some essential minerals and overgrazing has led to poor quality veld. This means animals do not take in the minerals and vitamins they need for optimal growth, health and successful reproduction, says Ratselane Marumo.
According to research by Gaborone-based vet Dr Laetitia Gaudex, the South African calving rate, a measure of reproductive performance, is at 61% in the commercial beef cattle sector and at 23% in the communal cattle sector. These figures show room for improvement in both sectors, and checking on mineral content in forage and feed is a good place to start.
Nutritional elements that are not present in feed or grazing can be supplied cost-effectively, but farmers should determine shortages before supplementing to avoid wasting money on unnecessary supplementation.
Minerals are categorised into macro- or microminerals, depending on the levels present in the animals’ bodies or the amounts required in their diet. Macrominerals (the ones they need a lot of), such as calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, chlorine and sulphur, are important for skeletal performance, weight gain, milk production, onset of puberty, the nervous and muscular systems and carbohydrate metabolism, among other functions. The important microminerals, including copper, selenium and zinc, are equally crucial to health and development, but in small quantities.
The most important vitamins required by cattle are vitamins A, D and E. Vitamin and mineral supplements are available in loose mixes, premixes, mineral blocks, oral drenches and injectables. Afrivet markets a number of these products and has the expertise to help farmers make relevant choices.
“Use your forages sustainably so that you can graze the veld and then use supplements when necessary,” says Marumo.
For more information, visit www.afrivet.co.za