Optimising reproductive performance in stock - Elders Rural Services

Optimising reproductive performance in stock

Trace mineral supplementation as a nutritional strategy is an important economic decision for cattle and sheep operations.

All minerals, and in particular phosphorus, directly raise the productivity of ruminants, particularly on Australia’s soils which are often deficient.

The right – or wrong – mineral program can have a direct impact on your operation’s reproductive outcomes and weight gains. As a result, this could directly impact profitability as well.

A crucial trace mineral to consider when looking to improve the performance of both cattle and sheep is Selenium (Se). It plays a critical role in metabolism, growth, reproductive health and the body’s natural defences.

Selenium is an essential trace mineral found in all cells of the body and has key functions in enzyme systems. It optimises the immune system of animals by increasing antibody production and is a powerful antioxidant used in the management of heat stress in feedlot and dairy animals. Selenium is also involved in optimising sperm motility and development, and is linked to better conception rates, which positively affects reproduction and fertility.

In breeding females, selenium has both metabolic and physiological effects on the foetus, with the potential to alter the developmental trajectory of the offspring later in its life. Notably the increase in fertility from selenium supplements can be attributed to the reduction in embryonic death in the first month of gestation.(Mehdi & Dufrasne, 2016)

Selenium deficiencies can be a big problem, causing young animals to be weak at birth and increase their susceptibility to diseases including scours. In cows, increased rates of retained placentas and poor reproductive performance are also often observed.

To combat such deficiencies, supplements are often required. This is largely due to the Selenium content of grazing pastures varying greatly, which is a direct reflection of the soils in which pastures and fodder crops are grown. However, Selenium is commonly supplemented in inorganic forms, such as sodium selenate or the closely related sodium selenite, despite grazing pastures providing the mineral in an organic form.

Why choose an organic form of selenium for your stock?

The difference between an organic and an inorganic source of selenium is the availability of the essential mineral to the animal.

A Selenium yeast such as Sel-Plex® from Alltech®, provides livestock with trace minerals in a form as close to nature as possible, thereby mimicking the form that would be found in forages. This enables Selenium to be better absorbed due to the higher bio-availability, so can be provided at lower inclusion rates.

Selenium salts, the traditional form of supplementation and used in long acting injectables, is circulated in the blood, and cannot be stored in the muscle. This limits its effectiveness in higher performance systems. Sel-Plex however can be deposited into the muscle and crucially, can be drawn upon when needed.

Numerous studies have shown that a yeast-based selenium is a far more beneficial method of achieving optimal mineral nutrition, due to the higher bio-availability, lower inclusion and optimised health and performance of animals, when compared to providing supplementation in inorganic forms.

Sel-Plex is available as a fine powder designed to be added to dry licks, liquid or grain-based supplements and premix feeds.

Article written by Toby Doak, Technical Sales, Alltech Lienert Australia for Seasons magazine. 

Order your supply of Sel-Plex from your local Elders store now.

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