Farm Facts and Furrows

Salt and mineral for pregnant cows

March and April are spring calving months for many beef herds. Cows are usually feeding on hay with no supplement. While average quality hay is often adequate in meeting the nutritional needs of cows in early pregnancy stages it is often deficient for later stages and after calving. Supplementing the hay with grain is often advised but rarely happens because of cost, availability and difficulty feeding. This makes feeding salt and mineral particularly important. A 1:1 calcium-phosphorous mineral is a good choice for mixed legume/grass hay diet for pregnant cows. Magnesium and selenium are critical also. Select a mineral with about 4 percent magnesium. Most Ontario soils are deficient in selenium. Selenium deficiency can lead to white muscle disease in young calves. Salt deficiency can result in reduced appetite, growth and milk production. Some mineral mixes have salt added while others don’t. Salt increases the palatability and resulting consumption of minerals. Here are some guidelines for feeding salt and mineral. A trace mineral block usually doesn’t provide all the minerals required such as calcium and phosphorus. Mix a 1:1 calcium/phosphorus mineral with cobalt iodized blue salt at 1 part mineral to 1 part salt. Salt increases palatability. Salt blocks can be provided with loose mineral as an alternative method of feeding salt. Mineral should be available at all times. Put out what the cow will clean up in a day or two to avoid it becoming caked or soiled.

Feeding pregnant ewes

The profitability of a sheep enterprise depends on the number of lambs sold and the number raised to market is a reflection of the complete management of the flock throughout the year. One of the critical points in this management cycle is lambing and proper feeding of ewes can have a positive impact. The ewe is required to deliver strong healthy lambs and to have sufficient milk to raise those lambs. Her ability to do this is a reflection of the gestation management. Throughout much of the gestation period a diet of good hay should suffice. In the last six weeks, grain can be fed in addition to hay to allow for the growing lambs, the development of the udder, and the fat reserves of the ewe for lactation. The amount of supplementary feed depends on the size and body condition of the ewes and the quality of forage being fed. At lambing the body score should be between 3 and 3.5. Care must be taken not to feed too much grain early in gestation, gradually increasing the amount allows for lamb development. A leveling out or fall in late pregnancy grain intake can result in pregnancy toxaemia and death of the lamb(s) in utero. Conversely, too little grain will give an undersized, weak lamb with a poor chance of survival. Also, the ewe will have insufficient udder development for a good lactation. Not less than four weeks before the due date of the first ewe, all the ewes should receive a booster vaccination against the clostridia group of diseases, (all first lamb ewes should have completed the primary vaccination course before breeding) and an injection of Vitamin E/selenium. If they are not to be sheared, they should at least be crutched to remove excess wool from the udder area.