Vitamins and minerals are a small portion of the beef diet, but they are important for normal cattle body function, which results in optimum health, growth and reproduction, says Patrick Davis, University of Missouri Extension regional livestock field specialist.
Davis offers six strategies to promote optimum cattle mineral and vitamin status, which will result in optimum cattle operation performance and profitability:
1. Check feed rations. “Test your cattle rations and develop a mineral and vitamin program to offset deficiencies,” Davis says. Consult your local MU Extension livestock field specialists to discuss testing cattle rations, determining mineral and vitamin requirements for the cattle that you are feeding and how to offset ration deficiencies.
Sometimes ration incorporation of some grains and byproducts will results in an inadequate calcium-to-phosphorus ratio. In this case, Davis encourages dietary incorporation of calcium sources such as limestone or calcium carbonate to reach the ideal 2-to-1 ratio. This results in optimum animal absorption of the two minerals, which leads to the animal’s needs being satisfied.
2. Incorporate salt. “Salt is a key component of any cattle mineral supplement and should be consumed daily,” Davis says. Salt consumption leads to proper function of the cattle nervous and muscular systems. In addition, salt helps regulate animal body pH and the amount of retained water.
Cattle with salt deficiency will experience a loss of appetite and inefficient weight gains. Davis urges cattle producers to provide free choice access of salt to cattle, which should promote optimum cattle appetite and performance and lead to optimum operation profitability.
3. Manage magnesium. “Cattle grazing early-spring lush forage growth need proper mineral supplementation to prevent grass tetany,” Davis says. Grass tetany results from a deficiency in magnesium, which is needed for proper enzyme and nervous system function, as well as carbohydrate metabolism. The combination of high potassium and low sodium in lush spring forage growth reduces absorption and utilization of magnesium.
In addition to magnesium deficiency, recent evidence implicates sodium deficiency in grass tetany problems. Davis urges cattle producers to provide proper salt and use high magnesium mineral supplementation (12% to 14% magnesium as magnesium oxide) free choice while grazing spring lush forage growth to reduce the incidence of cattle grass tetany.
4. Track trace minerals. “Meeting cattle trace mineral needs through supplementation will promote proper immune function, reproduction and growth,” Davis says. Supplemental trace minerals include cobalt, copper, iodine, iron, manganese, selenium and zinc.
These trace minerals affect various body activities in cattle, including vitamin synthesis, growth enzyme systems, energy metabolism, formation of hemoglobin, reproduction, fetal development, udder development, immune function, skin development and hoof health.
Davis urges cattle producers to provide cattle a proper trace mineral supplement free choice to meet nutritional needs for proper immune function, growth and reproduction, which will lead to optimum operation profitability.
5. Value vitamins. “Vitamins A, D and E may need to be added to mineral supplementation programs in certain situations to meet cattle needs,” Davis says. These vitamins help cattle by promoting healthy skin and mucous membrane development. In addition, these vitamins help cattle in bone development and dealing with stress.
Cattle needs for the vitamins are typically met through the diet if cattle are outside grazing green growing forage. However, Davis urges cattle producers to consider vitamins A, D, and E supplementation if cattle are grazing dormant forages, being fed hay or in a situation where sunlight is limited.
6. Provide unlimited access. “Free choice supplementation of minerals and vitamins is the best way to meet cattle nutrient needs,” Davis says. Cattle should consume approximately 4 ounces of a mineral and vitamin supplement daily. If they are consuming more than this, he recommends adding salt to promote optimum consumption.
In addition, Davis suggests visiting with a local feed dealer to identify the proper free choice mineral, trace mineral and vitamin supplementation program for the cattle that you are feeding.
For more information on cattle mineral supplementation for optimum cattle operation productivity and profitability, contact your local MU Extension livestock field specialist.