Make the Most of Mineral This Year
While minerals are a relatively small portion of the diet, they control many vital functions in cattle and impact so many elements in the herd. It strengthens reproduction and their nervous system. It’s important for feed efficiency and overall herd health. That’s why it’s so important to make sure the mineral needs of your cattle are being met year-round.
Producers should consider these steps to develop a solid mineral strategy:
Analyze Mineral Needs
Production stages such as gestation, calving, weaning, and breeding are especially important. During gestation and calving, it’s critical to have a good mineral to get cattle through that stress period. Cows that are mineral deficient can create so many problems at birth. This can result in “weak calf syndrome,” which results in loss of vigor or scours.
During weaning, calves need an onboard reserve of minerals in their system. Stress is often elevated and feed consumption may decrease temporarily. Bulls especially have special needs during the breeding season. Provide zinc, manganese and Vitamin E help to ensure sperm quality and vitality.
Producers should also consider the overall nutrient composition and seasonality of their feed. For instance, areas with high growth and cool season grasses commonly have a need for higher magnesium in the spring to prevent milk fever or grass tetany.
Choose an Optimal Source
Producers should work with a nutrition consultant or Extension personnel to identify the levels of macro and micronutrients needed in their herd. Then, compare those nutrients to the amounts available in their rations or forage. Mineral product labels will list concentrations of each, so calculate anticipated intake and choose sufficiently supplies accordingly.
Not all sources of minerals are utilized equally. Oxides are virtually unavailable to the animal – forms like chlorides and sulfates are better, and organics or chelates are usually the best. Most oxide formulations are less expensive for manufacturers to include in a product, but they simply aren’t going to have the impact.
Finally, consider the expected seasonality when choosing a mineral source. During snowy or rainy seasons, water-resistant and weatherized products can provide protection from mineral caking or from the wind blowing it away.
Make the Most of Mineral consumption
While planning and choosing a quality mineral source are key, it takes proper management to have an effective mineral program. First and foremost, producers should be tracking mineral consumption to make sure the cattle are getting the minerals that have been put out. To calculate consumption, producers should follow this simple formula:
Producers can encourage or discourage consumption by placing mineral feeders near or away from water sources, and in areas with ample room for access and rotation.
Cows can’t tell if they do or don’t need mineral, but they do seek out phosphorus and salt, which can offer management tactics. Salt can be used as a limiting factor, or if the cows are salt deficient, as a driver of intake. Overconsumption of mineral should be regulated. Although it is likely not dangerous, it can be costly.
A well-planned mineral program means considering a variety of factors from cattle needs and nutrients, to mineral sources and management strategies that planning can pay off in the long-run.
You might not see changes overnight, but the return on this investment can be long-term. More cows bred back, less calf health challenges and any number of factors could result from a well thought out mineral strategy. Planning a strategy now can pay-off later on. Choosing a mineral can be challenging. Learn tips to help you select a mineral.