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Reducing phosphorus but not at the expense of the health of your cows

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Now that the decision on phosphate rights has finally been made, the sector will be seeking the limits in order to minimise the effects of the restrictions.
There is a lot of discussion about improving mineral efficiency via BEX and the cycle indicator. In addition, farmers want to reduce the number of young cattle and prolong the lifespan of the cow. Further reduction of phosphorus via the feed will of course be addressed again. Which is a good thing in itself, but are there limits here too?


Approximately 2 years ago, cattle farmers and veterinarians in northern Netherlands had never heard of the P-pill and ketosis infusions with additional P. It was different in the South: driven by BEX, manure removal, etc., farmers in the South had been working on reducing phosphate input via feed for much longer. The result was that the first cases of the so-called ‘downer cows’ occurred there. People soon became aware that it involved a phosphorus deficiency. When these cows are given additional phosphorus in the form of the P-pill or via an infusion, they are back on their feet within a few hours. When the cattle farmers in northern Netherlands also started reducing the phosphorus input (mixed feed covenant), the same problems occurred. The P-pill remedy worked there too.

In other words, the phosphorus problem was and is being remedied by curative action. But is that the only solution? VIB strives for preventive work methods instead of curative ones. We have to look at the source of the problem to find the preventive solution. In this case, we need to find out where the ‘downer cow’ problem starts. We have to ask the question: where does the phosphorus flow start for the cow?  The phosphorus flow starts in the soil. Thus the first optimisation can be made here using the right fertilisers. Next we look at the ration. What optimisation can we use here that doesn’t jeopardise the cow’s health?

The final goal is a healthy cow with an optimum ration from an optimum soil. This completes the cycle. If you want to perform optimally within the set (phosphorus) limits, you have to be in control of the entire chain from the soil to the cow.

Would you like to know how to take the right steps for this? If so, contact Alidus Hidding at +31 (0) 592 614 265 or ahidding@vibconsulting.nl