Feeding Minerals For All They’re Worth

Most cattle producers feed their cattle minerals but are they feeding the right ones? And how much should be fed? Dr. Brian Dorcey, DVM and FBN®s Head of Veterinary Strategy, specializes in cow-calf and feedlot health. He addresses some common questions and offers suggestions on what beef producers should consider when setting up a cow mineral program.

Why Feed Minerals?

Mineral deficiency is a health issue on a lot of farms and ranches. In fact, some of our health events could be mineral deficiency that we often don’t fully understand or appreciate. But producers should think about the quality of what mineral they choose and be able to quantify the results.

In the past, ranchers would put out salt — no minerals in it — just straight white salt. 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 helps ensure adequate nutrition and at key stages of production to benefit conception. Minerals formulated for the gestation period are essential for the developing fetus.

What Are Regional Factors That Go Into Choosing Minerals?

Regional differences greatly impact mineral choice. Have you done any pasture or water testing to better understand the mineral levels present in your environment? Are you aware of any toxicities or deficiencies?

For example, South Dakota has areas where the soil is naturally  high in selenium which could lead to selenium toxicity in the cow if the mineral is not formulated taking this into account.

You also should consider soil salinity. Salt is the ultimate driver of mineral intake. Cows need to eat to their salt requirement each and every day. If they are picking that salt up somewhere else, that can decrease mineral intake.

In Montana, western North Dakota and South Dakota, there's enough salt in the water that cows may not be interested in consuming minerals in the needed quantity. It may be time to consider  a mineral program with more bioavailable forms of the minerals so they are getting more usable minerals per bite.

How Does Weather Affect Mineral Selection?

Problems can arise if there is too much or not enough moisture. When it's too wet, the grass can be washy and generally lacking in mineral content, so cows have to eat a lot to meet their mineral requirements.

If it’s really dry, the forage has very little mineral uptake from the roots because there’s nothing to transport it. So there’s a high probability of being mineral deficient if range is either too wet or too dry.

How Much Is Enough?

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

How Do 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 - select, choice and prime, designed to meet the specific needs  of cattle producers across a broad variety of production systems and environments.

You also need to think about 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.

All cow minerals are on sale until April 30th. View our complete price list and connect with our team.

The above is provided for information purposes only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of any condition. This information does not cover all possible variables, conditions, reactions, or risks relating to any topic, medication, or product and should not be considered complete. Certain products or medications may have risks and you should always consult your local veterinarian concerning the treatment of your animals.

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