Before you stock up and put out those mineral blocks, consider three blocks of advice from the cows. Since there's a language difference, their advice is interpreted by Greg Eckerle, beef technical consultant for Purina Animal Nutrition.
Not all minerals are created equal. And with today's high value of beef animals, it's well worth scrutinizing your mineral supplementation program – whether you're raising beef or dairy cattle.
Yes, sorting through various mineral types can be a daunting task, concedes Eckerle. But, the generic or popular local option may not be your best choice. "If you're not feeding a quality supplemental mineral, you may see the consequences of mineral deficiencies in the form of decreased calf weaning weights, small or weak calves, decreased milk production, reduced or delayed conception and even poor immunity."
Three crucial needs
Here's what to look for in cattle mineral:
1.) Essential minerals: A complete mineral contains a proper balance of all 14 essential cattle minerals – calcium, copper, cobalt, iodine, iron, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, sodium, sulfur and zinc.
A proper zinc-to-copper ratio is one of the biggest considerations. A ratio of three-to-one is preferable, he advises. Zinc and copper are commonly deficient microminerals in cattle. That ratio is critical because of how closely zinc and copper absorption are tied.
2.) Large particle size and rain protection: Rain and other elements can literally wash a mineral investment down the drain, or can turn your mineral into a brick-type substance that cattle often refuse to eat. A weatherized mineral should be water-resistant – and wind-resistant. A weatherized mineral with larger particle size can remedy this problem."
"The biggest drawback of a non-weather resistant mineral is that your cattle just aren't going to consume it," he adds. If you're not seeing daily consumption, that mineral has been turned into a hard block or the particles are being blown away. Either way, your investment is a loss.
3.) Bioavailable sources: Make sure your mineral uses bioavailable mineral sources. Inorganic sources have less adsorptive ability than organic complexes or chelated copper, manganese and zinc.
Bioavailability of zinc, manganese, copper and cobalt trace minerals, in particular, impact animal growth, reproduction and fiber digestion. So while organic complex and chelated products may be a bit more costly, they can be a best fit for herds with marginal trace mineral status, consistent reproduction issues, overall herd health problems, foot problems or in areas with forage or water issues.