Selecting the right cattle mineral can be overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be with these four considerations:
1. Define your current cattle mineral program.
What does your current cattle mineral program look like? It likely fits into one of these three groups:
- You rely on feedstuffs and do not offer mineral
- You provide salt or trace mineralized salt
- You offer fortified loose cattle mineral, or weatherized mineral or cattle mineral tubs
Sometimes cattle mineral decisions made are reinforced when nothing terrible happens. For instance, if you provide only salt and cows breed back and calve, you might be under the impression everything is OK. Unfortunately, there are incremental losses that can’t always be seen. With a balanced mineral program, you can achieve greater results.
Be cautious of least-cost programs, as they can end up costing the most in the end.
2. Consider your herd’s complex needs.
Mineral nutrition impacts calving interval, conception rate, colostrum quality and milk production in cows. A quality cattle mineral must contain the proper balance of all 14 essential macro and micro minerals to ensure you’re meeting your cattle’s needs through all seasons.
Although single-mineral programs can suffice at times, a balanced mineral program is the best insurance against economic losses that are difficult to measure, such as incremental changes in breeding percentages, milk production or colostrum quality.
When you provide an inadequate mineral program, cattle can have reproductive challenges, disease incidence, poor milk production, lower calf weights, calf health challenges, and longer calving intervals. Those factors can cost you a lot of missed income potential when compared to the relatively small investment of a balanced cattle mineral program.
3. Look at regionality.
Different areas of the country have different mineral needs, and they can change depending on forage availability, time of year and weather. Questions to consider when evaluating your operation’s needs include:
- Do you prefer loose mineral or cattle mineral tubs?
- Would your herd benefit from fly control?
- What is the weather like?
- What type of forage is available?
- How much mineral will you need?
- What are the pasture conditions?
- Are you offering other forms of cattle supplements?
Work closely with your dealer to determine the right cattle mineral for your operation and region.
4. Make sure cattle mineral can change with the seasons.
As forages change throughout the year, so do cattle nutritional needs.
Select a balanced, weather-resistant cattle mineral to provide consistent intake and performance, such as Purina® Wind & Rain® Storm® Mineral which comes in a variety of seasonal formulations. Match the correct product for your available forage to ensure cattle receive the mineral nutrition they need for health, growth, and reproduction through all seasons.
Here are a few seasonal considerations:
- Providing a mineral high in magnesium can help reduce the potential for losses associated with grass tetany, common in the spring.
- Providing a mineral high in phosphorus can be beneficial when the grass has matured past lush, early growth.
- Providing a mineral with higher levels of trace mineral and vitamins can address special mineral deficiencies associated with fescue forages.
- Providing a mineral to calves prior to weaning can maximize immune function and reduce post-weaning sickness
- Providing a mineral with fly control can minimize horn fly populations and their associated cattle production losses.
Plan for high cattle performance
Developing a balanced cattle mineral program takes time. Work with a team of experts, including your local dealer, to plan for optimum herd health.
Keep in mind that with mineral nutrition, positive responses in cattle will take some time to see. If cattle have inadequate mineral status, consumption may be higher in the first month and there may be a delay in visible improvement as cattle rebuild mineral stores. Continue monitoring mineral consumption and cattle results over time.
Courtesy of: N.T. Cosby, Ph.D.
Field Cattle Consultant