Boosting the trace element and vitamin status of his finishing heifers has seen Devon based farmer, Graham Harding, increase daily liveweight gain by 28 per cent.

Graham and Kate Harding run a mixed farm in Putford, Devon, comprising of 350-head of beef cattle plus 500 ewes.

Limousin cows form the basis of the suckler herd, with home-bred stock, plus additional purchased store cattle and 100 Belgian Blue cross calves from a local dairy farm, which are taken through to finishing at around 26 months of age.

Around 70 cattle are finished annually with the steers mainly sold as forward stores.

Maximising daily liveweight gain (DLWG), while making the most of forage, is a key aim for the business to drive productivity and profitability.

“We’re trying to finish cattle as efficiently as possible and making incremental improvements in DLWG is a core focus for us," said Graham.

This led him to consider the role of micronutrition in the finishing period, particularly because the farm has a known selenium deficiency.

He had also noted uneven performance within a batch of heifers.

“We usually only finish home-bred stock but due to a farm relocation we missed a cycle of calving and so bought-in 70 store heifers to make up the numbers.

"We noticed that some of the purchased cattle were trailing behind our home-bred finishing heifers and an imbalance in trace elements was suggested as a possible explanation,” he explained.

This prompted him to try boluses, which offer a reliable and consistent daily supply of essential trace elements and vitamins over a sustained period.

“The EnduraBol® boluses are a good option for providing long-lasting supplementation of key trace elements and vitamins.

"Finding a solution which doesn’t require a daily manual top-up was particularly important to me as I don’t employ any additional staff,” he said.

Having not previously bolused cattle, Mr Harding ran a trial to test the efficacy.

The trial - which ran over a 201-day period - involved 36 heifers randomly split into two groups; a control group and a group that received EnduraBol® boluses. All other aspects of management and nutrition remained consistent between the two groups.

Cattle were weighed regularly throughout the trial period to monitor DLWG and were blood tested at 85 days by a vet, looking specifically at copper, manganese and selenium levels.

These trace elements are essential for growth, health, and production, supporting key aspects including muscle development, enzyme function and immune support.

“The blood results showed a 16 per cent increase in selenium levels, an 8 per cent increase in manganese levels and a 5 per cent increase in copper levels,” explained Graham, adding that an uplift in performance also followed.

“On average, the heifers within the treatment group gained an additional 32.5kg liveweight compared to the control group over the trial period. This equates to an additional DLWG of 0.16kg.”

For Graham, this correlated to an average slaughter value of £77/head more, but the results also highlight the scope to reduce finishing times and improve efficiency.

“We’ve seen a noticeable improvement in the liveweight gain of the bolused heifers which means we can get our cattle up to weight much quicker.

"Going forward, this will allow us to reduce our overall finishing time by well over one month, which offers significant cost savings.”