Research into the addition of nickel to pasture and to feed for dairy cows is being carried out on a small Taranaki farm.
Nickel, an essential trace element for ruminant health and for temperament and wellbeing, is low in New Zealand pastures.
New Zealand dairy cows need 30-50 times more nickel per day than they receive, says Omnia Nutriology research boss Adrian Spiers, of Palmerston North.
Nickel improves milk yield, quality of pasture, animal health and nitrogen utilisation and efficiency, encouraging clover growth and reducing leachate.
The presence of nickel allows plants to pick up urea. Research to date shows far less urea needs to be applied to pasture containing nickel.
Nickel is a co-factor for bacterial actions in the rumen, making it more efficient and creating more protein and less fat in milk. Dr Spiers said nickel helped improve cows' reproductive performance.
Production on the small Auroa dairy farm of his uncle, Norman Johnson, had increased 75 per cent in the three years of application of nickel to the pasture and in a daily dose to his 60 cows at milking time.
Omnia Nutriology has taken out a patent for product.
Spiers said the presence of nickel in New Zealand had not been tested, even though it was a pivotal and essential element.
Johnson had noticed a difference in animal behaviour within five days of his first use of nickel.
"He'd always thought his cows were looking for something that was lacking in their diet. They are happy now.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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