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An Ounce of Prevention or I'll Wait Until Spring


           A nearly bankrupt and demoralized "conventional dairyman" reluctantly asked his neighbor, a successful seasoned grass-based dairyman, what he could do to turnaround his faltering operation. After going into great detail about the necessary changes involved, the perplexed "conventional dairyman" replied "Yeah, I guess I'll have to do that... I'll wait until spring". Procrastination, man's eleventh commandment, while not usually fatal, can seriously inflect damage on herd economics as well as health. The key to improved herd health is prevention, not merely symptom treatment.

          It is generally recognized by sustainable agriculturists that the feeding of kelp meal prevents pinkeye. But, this is not to say that kelp meal will cure an animal after it is infected with pinkeye. Feeding kelp meal, after the fact, will prove futile. The animal must still be treated with antibiotics or homeopathic medicines. In all likelihood, if the producer would have been feeding kelp meal already, pinkeye would never have become a problem.  Although this animal will be cured by treatment, the problem is not eliminated. Treatment only masks the root cause of the problem! Only when the issue of prevention is addressed can you begin to gain the upper hand in herd health issues.

          Trace mineral nutrition is the key to improved animal health, fertility, and performance. Without sufficient body levels of minerals; proteins, fats, vitamins, and carbohydrates can not be efficiently utilized by the body.

         Minerals are involved directly and indirectly in supplying energy, regulating body processes, and in the growth and maintenance of the body.

        Trace minerals govern the immune and reproductive systems. Many of the problems encountered by producers stem from trace mineral deficie1Icies.

       These trace mineral deficiencies result in the compromising of the immune response system. This leaves the animal wide open for bacterial and viral assaults. According to veterinarians, the majority of health problems are stress related. Research had demonstrated that under stress (calving, weaning, shipping, milking, sickness, etc.) nutritional deficiencies can be produced or aggravated. Stress results in the accelerated depletion of certain trace minerals. This translates into increased animal demand for trace minerals. If these nutritional needs are not met, the animal is more  likely to succumb to opportunistic diseases. Bovine Respiratory Disease (BRD) would be considered an opportunistic disease which attacks on both bacterial and viral levels. This complex multiple disease gains a foothold when the animal has a weakened and compromised immune system or is subjected to stress. Whether vaccinated or not, animals with a healthy immune system are able to fend off this insult.

          Stress is not only equated with sickness and death, but costly reduced animal performance. Logic dictates that it is easier to reduce stress than to treat the resulting symptoms. Enhancing their immune systems will help lessen the severity of stress and subsequently diseases.

          At this time, the following trace minerals have been shown to be necessary for the proper functioning of the immune response system: Cobalt (Co), Copper (Cu), Iodine (1), Iron (Fe), Molybdenum (Mo), Manganese (Mn), Selenium (Se), and Zinc (Zn). In addition, vitamin E has also been shown to be a vital component of the immune system. Research has proved that a synergistic relationship exists between vitamin E and selenium.

          Vitamins help in the appropriation of minerals in the body. Without vitamins, the body can use some of the minerals; but without minerals, vitamins are unusable. Also, vitamins and trace minerals are vital in the formation of enzymes that control immune response.

          In the past, trace mineral nutrition was relegated to a neglected realm. Fertilizers were only interested in N-P-K. Trace minerals were totally ignored in our exhausted and depleted soils. How can we expect our plants to be mineral enriched if our soils are void of trace minerals? All life begins and ends with the soil! If the soils are trace mineral deficient, so will the plants growing, and ultimately the animals and man who consume them. Providing adequate trace mineral supplementation will enable an animal to buildup it's immune defenses. Inadequate or improper trace mineral nutrition is one of the primary factors involved in the culling of so-called" problem breeders". Rather than exhibit specific health problems, many trace mineral deficiency symptoms are subclinical. Gradually, over time, you will have more "open" livestock and escalating health problems. Many of the "problem breeders" that you cull each and every year are not genetically inferior, but trace mineral deficient.

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