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Beltie-Briefs Newsletter

October 13, 2020


Beef Tips

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 dont 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 oxidation/reduction potential.

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.
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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 growth?
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
Federation website.  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.

Macro 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 of magnesium.”
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.



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.



November 18, 2020. Louisville, Kentucky. 8 am in Broadbent Arena at the North American International Livestock Exposition. 
November 19, 2020. Louisville, Kentucky. 8 am in Freedom Hall at the North American International Livestock Exposition. 

Herd this at the fence...

From the Eckleman Family

Recordkeeping:  How do you manage your herd?  A whiteboard? Notebook?  Take a picture with your phone and expect to remember who that calf was?  Maybe you have a spreadsheet that only you can interpret?  However you keep your records they are a wealth of information and worth a small investment of both your time and maybe even a little money if it suits you.
Growing up (before Belties) we had a small herd that we didn’t keep a stitch of records on.  We (my dad and I) had conversations that started something like “I think it’s time to wean those calves. . .that one there was born during that warm spell back in the spring. . I think. . .”  Or maybe I’m even a bit embarrassed to admit we once had one calve that still had another at its side.
As we became more vested in the herd, and Dad let go of the reins, we started a spreadsheet to keep better track of the cattle.  After a short time we realized the value of these records and invested in an inexpensive software to help us keep better track of our cattle that worked great for us for several years.  As technology has advanced we recently upgraded again to a cattle management system that allows us to access records from any device with internet.  We now have the ability to stand in the pasture and make heat notations, record births (with pictures even), look up ages of cattle, record treatments...and the list goes on.  How much you get out of a management software is up to the level you want to use it. 
For us the investment pays for itself by allowing us years of data at our fingertips.  A cow that we may not have realized hasn’t been producing as well as it once was shows up easily by looking at her history.  We like to record weights and measurements of our show cattle which our software instantly turns to WDA and frame score data.  A link is below for the software we now use and love but do your homework and pick what you think will work for you!  Whatever record keeping system you use for your Beltie cattle our family highly recommends a little more documentation than just your memory 

If you are interested in learning more about grazing and grazing management, an excellent periodical is the Stockman Grass Farmer. Subscriptions for this are paid, but you can try an issue for free. 

A word from the Bookworm...

What's New on the Web

Beef industry Long Range Plan; It’s aggressive and in-depth

The new five-year plan builds on previous efforts but gives beef producers even more areas of focus.

American Grassfed Association | americangrassfed
Our certification program requires producers to meet a stringent set of standards and pass an annual third-party, on-farm inspection to become approved AGA Certified producers. To learn more, visit our certification page.

Record keeping website: 

Tip: Try searching on Google “Livestock Record Keeping”

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