Thank goodness its Friday! On Fridays I will post a photo from the ranch and discuss the subject. Take a gander and see if you can guess what we are looking at…

Do you take your daily vitamin and mineral pills? Do you have a clue what minerals are available in your diet? It’s not exactly as simple as popping a pill for cattle.

The cows in this photo are enjoying some free-choice mineral supplement from a covered feed trough in the pasture. Cattle on daily feed supplements can be fed mineral requirements through their feed rations. I keep the supplement out year-round, but it’s not as easy as emptying a 50-pound bag of feed. Cattle producers have to be aware of changing environments, seasons, and requirements.

Environment – Mineral composition of soils across the country vary greatly. Some parts of the country are deficitient in selenium, while others may be short in copper. Ranchers have a little help from extension materials that map out an area’s deficiencies.

Seasons – Lush, fresh forages in Spring will have higher mineral concentration than those forages in the late Summer or Fall. On average, peak mineral requirement occurs during the Fall and Winter seasons. A change in supplement formulation may be required. Also, different forage types have different mineral compositions. For example, cattle on legumes (clover, alfalfa) will require little to no copper supplement, compared to cattle on fescue (which has a significantly lower copper composition).

Requirements – Cattle at different stages of production, have different nutrirent requirements. The National Research Council researches and publishes average nutrient requirements for cattle at all stages of production: yearling, non-pregnant, lactating, gestation. Producers can use these figures to determine what their cattle need by studying these recommendations.

Additives – Producers also have the capability to supplement cattle with other products through mineral choices. Additives are available to regulate insect/fly growth in the manure of supplemented cattle. Also Low-grade antibiotics can be added to control infections from insects (anaplasmosis) that can be difficult to control and treat otherwise.

Of course we have help from feed companies who have nutritionists on staff to do much of formulating for producers.

Mineral Facts

  • Mineral deficiencies can be observed through reduced level of production in cattle
  • Macro minerals required in cattle diets include Calcium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Magnesium, Sulfur
  • Trace minerals required in cattle diets include Cobalt, Copper, Iodine, Iron, Manganese, Selenium, Zinc
  • Vitamins required in cattle diets include Thimin, Vitamin A, Vitamin B12, Vitamin D, Vitamin E
  • Salt is the main ingredient to control intake and palatability of mineral supplements

Here is a post from a rancher in Kansas that does a good job of explaining the use of IGR in mineral supplements to control fly populations.