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Minerals vital to herd health and productivity

A mineral deficiency can reduce both the consumption and digestibility of feed for beef cattle, according to Mark Keaton, Baxter County staff chair for the Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service.

“Two symptoms of mineral deficiency often seen in beef cow herds are reduced milk production, which results in slower calf gains, and the failure of cows to breed regularly, which lowers the calf crop percentage,” Keaton said.

Fewer and lighter weight calves mean reduced beef production. Feeding growing cattle a diet low in minerals reduces both the rate and efficiency of animal gains.

Keaton said minerals are classified as macrominerals or microminerals. Macronutrients are those needed in large amounts, including calcium, phosphorus, sodium, chlorine, magnesium, potassium and sulfur. Micronutrients are trace minerals needed in small amounts such as iron, manganese, copper, iodine, cobalt, zinc and selenium.

“Few feeds contain all the minerals needed to meet the dietary requirements of a beef cattle herd. The minerals should be supplied in a feed supplement.”

Beef cattle diets almost always need to be supplemented with sodium, chlorine, calcium and phosphorus.

Minerals can be supplied in a commercially prepared mix or a homemade formulation. A mineral mix — the kind usually used in small operations — should be at least 6 percent to 12 percent phosphorus.

A complete mineral mix should be fed free-choice in a single-compartment feeder, Keaton said. Feeders should be located near water, no farther apart than a half mile.

Check feeders at least once a week to make sure the mineral supply is fresh and clean.

For more information on supplying mineral needs to a herd, call your county Extension agent. The Cooperative Extension Service is part of the U of A Division of Agriculture.

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