Feeding Minerals For All They’re Worth

Most cattle producers feed their cattle minerals... but are they feeding them the right ones? And how high should cattle mineral intake be?

To address common producer questions and offer suggestions on what beef producers should consider when developing a mineral program, we spoke with Dr. Brian Dorcey, DVM and FBN®’s Head of Veterinary Strategy, who specializes in cow-calf and feedlot health.

Why Feed Minerals to Cattle?

Mineral deficiency is a health issue on many of farms and ranches. In fact, some animal health events could actually be mineral deficiency that we often don’t fully understand or appreciate.

But producers should really think about the quality of which mineral they choose and be able to quantify the results. In the past, ranchers would put out plain white salt — which does not contain minerals and does not provide a health benefit to cattle. There’s a new generation of ranchers that understand the need for minerals so they are putting out more of a mineral product with a salt component to drive intake.

When Should Minerals Be Fed?

Minerals should be fed to cows at all stages of production. Feeding a breeding mineral to cows at key stages of production can benefit conception and helps ensure adequate nutrition. Minerals formulated for the gestation period are essential for the developing fetus.

How Much Mineral Should Be Fed?

Consumption rate for most minerals is 4 ounces per head per day.

What Regional Factors Should Be Considered When Choosing Minerals?

Regional differences greatly impact mineral selection.

Pasture or water testing are both recommended to help you better understand the mineral levels present in your environment and be aware of any toxicities or deficiencies.

For example, South Dakota has areas where the soil is naturally high in selenium. This could lead to selenium toxicity in the cow if producers don't take this local factor into account when selecting minerals.

You also should consider soil salinity as salt is the ultimate driver of mineral intake. Cows need to eat to their salt requirement every single day; if they are picking that salt up somewhere else, that can decrease mineral intake. In Montana, South Dakota, and western North Dakota, there's enough salt in the water that cows may not be interested in consuming minerals in the needed quantity.

It may also be worth considering a mineral program with more bioavailable forms of the minerals so cattle are getting more usable minerals per bite.

How Does Weather Affect Mineral Selection?

Problems can arise if there is excess or insufficient moisture. When it's too wet, the grass can be washy and generally lacking in mineral content, so cows have to eat a lot in order to meet their mineral requirements.

Alternatively, if the environment is very dry, the forage has very little mineral uptake from the roots because there’s nothing available to transport it. In this scenario, there’s a high probability of being mineral deficient.

How Should Producers Choose a Mineral Program?

It all comes down to getting more bang for your buck and getting more minerals per bite into your cows.

FBN offers three levels of mineral:

  1. Select

  2. Choice

  3. Prime

Each level is specially designed to meet the specific needs of cattle producers across a broad variety of production systems and environments.

It's also important to consider delivery costs and getting the minerals to your farm. Budget for your cows at four ounces per head per day and order ahead for the summer season to get it all delivered at one time and save on shipping costs.

Shop Animal Health Products from FBN Direct®

If you're ready to shop minerals for your herd, the FBN Direct Animal Health store offers a wide range of options. With a broad variety of key animal health supplies, an easy online checkout process and direct-to-farm shipping, FBN Direct has the products you need to maximize your ROI and keep your livestock operation running smoothly.

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