The Fonterra board needs real farmers with their own skin in the game, says would-be director John Nicholls.
Called the Multimin Performance Ready Challenge, it includes having seven farmers test the livestock benefits of Multimin trace mineral injection, supported by veterinary mentors.
The farmers are posting the results on social media and digital channels.
The trial is designed to show Australian beef, sheep and dairy producers how they can use the trace mineral injection to improve livestock performance.
Willing and his wife Elisha run 900 Angus breeders east of Esperance, WA. The region’s sand plains are nutrient-deficient, which affects the fertility, weight gain and overall health of the self-replacing-herd.
“Our sandy soil leaches just about every nutrient available, so trace elements are the key to unlocking maximum production from our crops,” he says. “And even after topping up nutrient levels in our pastures, I’ve already seen a massive additional benefit from using Multimin.”
Willing uses the supplement to increase the fertility, conception rate and productivity of his animals.
Guided by advice from Dr Enoch Bergman, his herd has been split into two groups, to compare improvements in conception rates and timings. Group 1 has been treated with HyB12 + Celestin long acting injection, and group 2 with Multimin + HyB12 + Cydectin long acting injection.
Cows were treated in early June, four weeks prior to joining. They were then pregnancy-tested five weeks after joining, to measure conception rates and time of conception – important markers of fertility and herd profitability.
Early results indicated strong results for the cows treated with the trace mineral supplement.
Willing says despite his herd having relied heavily on supplementary feeding this past winter, the Multimin challenge trial cows look particularly good.
“Before I started using Multimin, my yearlings used to look brown and shaggy by the end of winter, but they’re keeping their shiny black coats, which is the first sign of good health,” he says.
“I hope that the next round of results will confirm my feeling that this injection is going to be good for their fertility levels and calving patterns.”
Bergman is a vet at Swans Veterinary Services, with an interest in this subject. He has sampled thousands of local animals to benchmark trace mineral status for targeted supplementation.
He believes in the importance of improving calving patterns in self-replacing herds.
“It is critical that calving aligns with optimal seasonal pasture availability to maximise calf weaning weights, breeder’s lifetime fertility and the producer’s ability to capitalise on market opportunities,” he says.
“Our intervention doesn’t stop with choosing the best mating date; we must ensure each breeding animal is given the best chance to get pregnant each time she cycles. Cows that get pregnant early in the mating programme go on to calve earlier, and so are better prepared for their next mating, increasing their longevity within the production system and the weaned weight of their calves.
Adequate micromineral levels are a key prerequisite for optimising body condition score and plane of nutrition of each breeder, essential for achieving a short fast calving season.”
Bergman urges farmers to join heifers for shorter periods and ahead of each producer’s older management groups.
“If naturally mating, I advocate joining heifers for three weeks shorter and three weeks earlier than their cow mobs. This will buy the heifer more time after she calves to prepare herself for her second mating season.”
Bergman says earlier cycling and improved conception rates can be achieved by optimising health and growth by better nutrition.
“For most of my clients, integrating a rapid trace mineral top-up of zinc, manganese, selenium, cobalt and copper at weaning and again prior to mating will improve reproductive outcomes, and will contribute to growth, a functioning immune system and greater disease resilience, all leading to improved fertility prospects.”
And while variable or reduced feed intake, feed antagonists and low trace mineral absorption in the gut can all make oral supplements less effective, Multimin is able to effectively bypass these challenges, being an injectable rather than oral trace mineral.
Bergman says the trace minerals found in the supplement can benefit mother and unborn calf.
He is encouraged by the early results of the trial, including “obvious pigment changes in Willings’ cattle versus the treated with the non-treated animals in the same management group”.
“This highlights the value of controlled studies. And I will get in behind Willings’ cows at pregnancy testing, to see if we can measure fertility differences.”