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The Cattle Connection

The cattlemen's connection to timely topics, current research, and profitable management strategies

Mineral Nutrition: Part 2 of 5

Posted by Travis Meteer - Nutrition

How would you grade your mineral program? Common replies would include: how often the feeder goes empty, or the price per bag. Unfortunately, those things aren't enough insight to know if your mineral program is effective.

Mineral nutrition is much more fragile than other nutrition tasks such as meeting protein and energy requirements. Minerals have to be provided to the animal in a balance. Balance is the key word in mineral nutrition. When minerals are not balanced, problems can arise. Low levels can lead to deficiency. High levels can lead to toxicity. Thus, when targeting proper mineral nutrition, levels must fall within a range.

Minerals enter the animal primarily through feed, water, and supplementation. Minerals are present at varying levels in feeds. This makes it imperative to sample feedstuffs. Sample analysis will show what minerals are adequate, plentiful, and deficient. Soils where feedstuffs are grown will be a large determinant of the mineral composition of those respective feed. Without an analysis, true mineral content of the feed is just a guess. This can result in potential for excessive levels or deficiency.

Water is a potential source of excessive levels that can cause an imbalance in mineral nutrition. Excessive sulfur and excessive iron are among the most common issues seen in water. Water samples can be taken and analyzed if a problem is suspected.

Many corn co-product feeds are high in phosphorus, which is among the most expensive components of a mineral supplement. If feeding co-products at an inclusion rate that supplies adequate P to the diet, it would make sense both nutritionally and economically to feed a low P mineral. Remember that the Ca to P ratio is one of the most common mineral interactions. In the case of co-product feeding, additional calcium may be required to maintain a 2:1 Ca:P ratio.

On the other hand, cattle on grass will likely need a moderate to higher level of P in the mineral supplement because forages are generally low in P. This situation illustrates the need to consider feedstuffs and base ration components when determining mineral supplementation. The mineral used to balance a winter ration will be different than the mineral used to balance cattle on pasture.

It is important to know what is being provided and not being provided by the feeds, forages, and supplements. Mineral nutrition can greatly impact health, nutrition, performance, and reproduction. As a result, cattlemen need to step away from the feed store propaganda, obtain nutrient analysis on feeds and water sources, and balance the mineral supplement.

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