10 mineral supplement myths debunked
Mineral supplementation is one of the most
important nutritional strategies for winter. Here’s a look at a few
myths and the facts that debunk them.
1. Cows know what minerals they need
Cows, like people, have no inherent
knowledge of their nutritional needs, particularly when it comes to
minerals. Cows will seek salt, but that does not translate to an
understanding of mineral requirements. Since cows can’t read, they have
no way of learning what their mineral requirements are during the
production cycle, thus they depend upon us to provide appropriate
mineral supplements. Likewise, offering cows a buffet of minerals to
pick and choose what they want doesn’t work. Multiple individual
minerals set out for free choice consumption has never worked. In that
scenario, cows will select minerals based on palatability, not
necessity; so, whichever mineral disappears is the one that had more
salt and tasted best.
2. Cows don’t need minerals all the time
Granted, there are some minerals that can
be stored in the body to supply future demand, but several important
minerals are not stored long-term in sufficient amounts. The cow does
not have a mineral gauge on her side letting us know when her mineral
status is low and needing supplementation. Related: Strategic mineral
supplementation for summer grazing Consider this, minerals are used
every day in normal metabolism and several important processes; having a
ready supply through regular consumption is important. So how do you
know which days the cow does not need minerals? Additionally, transient
mineral shortages can have some profound negative effects on offspring
through fetal programming.
3. Cows will consume just the right amount of mineral supplement
Cows can’t read the mineral tag that
informs what the expected and/or formulated consumption should be. If
left to their own devices, cows will consume loose trace minerals
supplements based on satisfying their salt craving/tolerance, liquid
supplements based on intake controls, or hand-fed supplements based on
accessibility. Relying on bovine self-control is a good way to spend too
much on mineral supplements or have inadequate mineral intake.
4. Trace mineralized salt blocks are mineral supplements
Look at the tag on the product, the primary
ingredient is 97 – 99% salt. Therefore, the amount of other minerals
contained in the block is too little to matter. The color of the block;
red, blue, yellow etc. is created to give the illusion that some mineral
is included in a sufficient amount.
5. Mineral form doesn’t matter Formulation does matter,
because the different forms of minerals
have different bioavailability. In general, mineral bioavailability from
greatest to least is as follows: organic sources > hydroxyl,
>chlorides > sulfates > carbonates > oxides. The specific
order of bioavailability often depends on the
specific mineral in question. The form of mineral affects mineral
solubility, stability, absorption, interactions/antagonisms, and
6. Grass provides all the minerals the cow needs
Forages are often deficient in multiple
mineral concentrations required by cattle. Various forages types will
have different mineral concentrations. Forage mineral concentrations do
vary throughout the forage growing season. Soil fertility and
fertilization programs can affect forage mineral concentrations.
7. You must have white salt in addition to the mineral
If the mineral supplement contains salt,
the addition of more white salt only serves to dilute the formulated
mineral supplement and will reduce the intake of these key minerals. In
either case, the salt displaces mineral consumption, which can lead to
inadequate intake of key trace minerals. Many producers claim that if
the cows consume the salt and not the mineral it is justification that
the cow has adequate mineral status. Refer to myth #1. Cows will consume
salt to satisfy their salt craving, and will consume either source of
salt, block or loose mineral supplement, to obtain salt. Salt mixed into
loose trace mineral supplements is used to both encourage and limit
mineral consumption, but additional salt is not warranted.
8. The higher the inclusion the better
Putting more of a mineral in a supplement
just to increase the concentration in the supplement does not always
equate to a superior product. Greater inclusion rates without
appropriate balancing of other minerals can lead to interactions and
antagonisms that undermine the effectiveness of the mineral supplement.
Also important is the form of the minerals included, see myth #5. A lot
of a low bio availability mineral is just more product
that will get excreted, not more mineral into the cow.
9. Mineral supplementation _xes everything
Undoubtedly mineral supplements are crucial
to optimal cow performance. However, even the best formulation,
consistently offered and adequately consumed mineral supplement, can’t
fix everything. If the cows are deficient in dry matter, energy, or
protein intake, are in poor health, or have inferior genetics, the
productive output of these cows will be substandard.
10. There is a perfect mineral supplement out there
Often producers are looking for their next
mineral supplement, because they believe something better or cheaper is
available. There are some well-formulated mineral supplements
manufactured by any number of companies. However, just because a
supplement is new, different, or the neighbor uses it does not mean that
it will be the best option for your operation. Differences in forage
base, supplemental feeds, cow breed, and stage of production all
influence the appropriateness of the mineral supplement.
Source URL: https://www.beefmagazine.com/nutrition/10-mineral-supplement-myths-debunked
What is selecting for more milk costing you?
Do 700-pound calves make you more money
than say, 400-pound calves? After all, we know only one of these weights
will get you bragging rights at the coffee shop.
To achieve 600- to 700-pound weights at weaning, the trend has largely
been a push for more – more milk, more growth. But what is it costing to
wean those heavier calves? Is there a limit of milk production that
your forage can support? And does more milk really equate to more
During the annual Beef Improvement Federation (BIF) Convention held
virtually this June, Travis Mulliniks, assistant professor and range cow
production system specialist at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln
addressed some of these questions.
“If we look at average weaning weights in commercial herds in many
regions across the country, we find a stabilization of calf weaning
weight,” Mulliniks told BIF viewers. “We are selecting for increased
milk and increased growth, but we’re not seeing that output of increased
weaning weight.” But why? Mulliniks said it all comes down to the
environment. “When we look at the response to [increased milk
selection], we get to a point where milk production didn’t increase by
the given genetic potential to increase milk production. So there is a
limitation of the amount of nutrients in the environment to allow that
cow to milk more,” he said.
To give viewers a better idea on how much the environment influences genetics and
productivity, Mulliniks compared milk production data from cows in
Tennessee and New Mexico. The cows in Tennessee had high growth
potential, high milk potential, high forage growth and high feed input.
The cows in New Mexico had moderate growth, low milk potential, limited
forage availability and lower feed input. “When we looked at 24-hour
milk production in these cows, we go from 24 pounds at peak
lactation in Tennessee and 13 pounds at peak lactation in New Mexico.
There was about a 50-pound difference in calf weaning weight on average,
so it’s not really an efficient system in selecting for more milk to
get a higher calf weaning weight,” Mulliniks said. Some things to note
from the data: Tennessee cows had 25 pounds of calf weaned per 1 pound
of milk, while New Mexico cows had 43 pounds of calf weaned per 1 pound
of milk. Tennessee cows weighed 1,500 pounds and New Mexico cows weighed
1,100 pounds. Tennessee cows had an 88% pregnancy rate, while New
Mexico cows had 96%. Tennessee cows had a 44% retention rate at 5 years
of age, while New Mexico cows had 61%. And New Mexico had a lower cost
of production at about $300 to $400 less. “When you look at that from a
complete production standpoint, by selecting for increased growth and
increased milk, we’re really not getting that out from an entire
production system. We may be weaning more calf, but we are not weaning
more total pounds of production due to that pregnancy rate, and it’s
costing us more to get there,” he said.
To watch the full presentation and view the data charts, visit the Beef Improvement
progressivecattle.com/news/event-coverage/what-is-selecting-for-more-milk-costing-you Cassidy Woolsey Editor
Minerals Matter – Introduction to mineral nutrition
Don’t skimp on your mineral program. Adequate mineral intake can solve a myriad of production problems.
Although their percentage of the diet is small, minerals pack a big
punch in the beef cattle herd. Producers seeking solutions to poor
pregnancy rates, weak newborn calves or other reproductive or
performance issues should not overlook a thorough review of their beef
herd mineral program. Often, deficiency in minerals surfaces as a factor
influencing the health and nutrition of the beef animal. “We are always
learning more about what minerals can do and learning more about the
basic needs of beef cattle nutrition,” Stephanie Hansen, Iowa State
University beef feedlot nutrition specialist, told cattlemen during a
webinar series on mineral nutrition hosted by NCBA. She noted minerals
matter because they are important to the overall animal health, along
with bone and muscle growth, feed efficiency, carcass quality, and
reproductive performance. To develop the proper mineral nutrition
program it is important to know the two main types of minerals
associated with beef cattle diets: macro-minerals and micro-minerals.
Related: Combat declining pasture quality with supplementation
“Macro-minerals are usually less than 1% of the diet, but are very
important,” Hansen explained. Common macro minerals are calcium (Ca),
magnesium (Mg), phosphorus (P), and sodium (Na). Since beef animals
cannot store macro minerals in their body, these minerals must be
provided in a constant supply through the animal’s diet, either from
feedstuffs or supplements. Fortunately, forages supply macro minerals,
meaning cattle grazing grasses have access to these critical minerals.
Research indicates the ratio of calcium to phosphorous in the diet
should be 1:1.
Related: 10 mineral supplement myths debunked
While many nutrient needs are met through
forage consumption, a common misnomer is that grass tetany occurs in the
spring because the grass is low in magnesium levels. This is not true,
Hansen said. The magnesium deficiency which causes grass tetany is the
result of interference of other minerals in the grass, creating a
decrease in absorption of magnesium at levels needed. The main culprit
of this interference is potassium (K), which tends to be represented at
high levels in forages in the spring, thus preventing the animal from
obtaining the required magnesium levels and forcing producers to
supplement the beef animal’s diet with a mineral high in magnesium,
correcting the shortfall. “The rule of thumb is potassium to magnesium
(K to Mg) ratio of 10:1. Nitrogen regularly used to fertilize grass and
forages is also capable of creating interference with absorption levels
Micro nutrients (trace minerals)
The other primary family of minerals
important to beef cattle diets is micro minerals, more commonly referred
to as trace minerals. “Fed at levels as parts per million (ppm), trace
minerals are a very, very small part of the diet, yet cattle can still
be deficient in these minerals, impacting productivity,” said Hansen.
Top of mind for cattlemen are copper (Cu) and zinc (Zn), as these two
trace minerals are often deficient in forages. Unlike macro minerals,
the ruminant can store trace minerals in their body to be utilized
later, thus alleviating the need for access to the constant intake of
trace minerals. “Where monitoring of trace minerals becomes important is
due to their great variability in forages.” However, one trace mineral
abundant in forages and harvested feedstuffs is iron (Fe). Iron is
commonly found at levels two to three times higher in forages than
needed to balance nutritional requirements. The concern with iron is its
role as an antagonist. Iron acts as a buffer against some of the other
critical trace minerals, such as copper and manganese, preventing them
from being absorbed and utilized at levels to maintain proper cattle
health and nutrition.
Finding the balance
The nutrition specialist is often asked,
“Can cows balance their diets when their body indicates a deficiency in a
mineral?” Unfortunately, the answer is no.
“Research has found that cattle will select a palatable but poor-quality
diet in preference to an unpalatable, nutritious diet,” she said,
“requiring constant management practices to focus on herd nutrition.”
Salt has become the primary intake driver in most free choice minerals
to add palatability to products and keep consumption levels up.
Following nutritional requirements is a good baseline, but “don’t assume
the book averages apply in all cases.” Mineral content varies by plant
species, soil characteristics, soil fertility, stage of plant maturity,
and climatic conditions. To find minerals that matter to your cowherd,
first test forages and second conduct water tests. Water can play the
role of an antagonist in mineral bioavailability ̶ how much of the
mineral the animal can absorb and use. “No mineral is an island. You
can’t just fix one problem; you need a holistic approach because a
change in one mineral can mean a change in the other.”
B. Lynn Gordon is a freelance writer from Sioux Falls, S.D.
MEET THE BOARD
Nathan and Jenny Eckleman Seymour, IN
Nathan Eckelman lives in Seymour, Indiana. With a current total of
28 head of Belted Galloway cattle he and his family hope to keep
increasing that number in time. The Eckelman’s purchased their
first Beltie in 2007 and looked forward to vising the NAILE every year
to see the Belted Galloway exhibiters. After several years of just
being a spectator to the annual event they finally became exhibitors
themselves in 2016. Even though they may not have taken home any
great accolades Nathan and his family were just happy to have been able
to successfully participate and learn. The Eckelman’s have 3 kids
and hope to have many years of exhibiting their belites to come.
Each time they show they love to learn something new. If anyone ever
wants to make that jump from being just a spectator to being an
exhibitor they can give Nathan a call with any questions or just to get a
little bit of encouragement.