Beef producers monitor selenium levels

14 Feb, 2017 02:00 AM
We are finding places which are low in selenium where producers didn't even know that was the case.

BEEF producers looking to make the most of high cattle returns, and conscious of the challenges that come with a flush of feed, are turning a close eye to trace elements.

Trials of selenium supplementation seem to be on the increase across the sandy, granite eastern seaboard soils where the season has been good.

The results have been promising, with a host of production benefits from weight increases to improved fertility reported.

Where rain has been relatively abundant, marginal areas can be quickly pushed into trace element deficiencies, said Livestock Biosecurity Network regional manager for Victoria and South Australia Dr Pat Kluver.

Extra pasture growth dilutes the availability of selenium and where there is a dominance in clover and, to some extent, superphosphate application, it was something to watch, he said.

Selenium is required in cattle for normal growth and fertility and for helping to prevent the likes of mastitis and calf scours.

In lambs, a deficiency is expressed in white muscle disease, usually detected during yarding.

There had been recent reports after a good season where supplementation in cattle lead to weight gains, Dr Kluver said.

"It's worthwhile doing a trial in a good season," he said.

"Be aware, most drenches contain selenium so if you are dealing with young liveweight sheep you can get to toxic rates - it's not common but it is possible."

Levels of selenium are identified via blood sample testing.

Local Land Services New England, New South Wales, regional veterinarian Steve Eastwood said it had become the norm to supplement for selenium, which was traditionally very deficient, particularly on improved pastures.

The hot dry summer had meant fresh feed was not so abundant as in southern areas but in some localities which had jagged storms, growth was good.

"The ideal is to treat the underlying problem, which is the soil, but if you're not fertilising, long lasting injectables would be the recommendation," he said.

Bayer HealthCare animal health services veterinarian Domenic Dell'Osa said research had shown there was no doubt if selenium supplementation was used where a deficiency has been identified, there were significant production benefits across a range of parameters.

He said Bayer budgeted funds towards trial testing in areas where deficiencies were likely.

"What is happening is we are finding places which are low in selenium where producers didn't even know that was the case," he said.

Shan Goodwin

Shan Goodwin

is the national beef writer for Fairfax Agricultural Media.


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