Nutritional requirements depend on whether the cow is pregnant, recovering from calving or lactating
Mineral deficiencies found in western Canadian cattle could be related to the feed, soil, water or not enough supplements.
“I know far too many producers who have learned the hard way from cows not eating enough minerals,” said John McKinnon, beef industry research chair at the University of Saskatchewan.
Lameness, milk fever, downer cows, retained placentas, failure to get pregnant, poor growth and deaths could be from a nutrient deficiency. However, it is wise to consult with a veterinarian or nutritionist when things go wrong.
“If you have issues with open cows and poor conception, don’t just focus on the mineral program, there are other reasons for these issues,” he said in a Nov. 4 webinar sponsored by the Beef Cattle Research Council.
“It could be related to general nutrition, general energy intake during critical periods.”
Supplements come in a variety of forms, concentrations and price ranges.
The ideal method is to mix them in the ration so every mouthful will offer enough.
Backgrounding and finishing operations do this, but most cow-calf operations are not feeding a total mixed ration. As a result, free choice is the best option.
“The most important concept you have to realize when choosing what mineral program is right for you is to think about your own operation,” he said.
“What part of the country do you live in and how that location will influence the mineral requirements of your cow herd.”
Mineral requirements also depend on whether the cow is pregnant, recovering from calving or lactating. More companies are designing their mineral packages based on what stage the cow is at, he said.
“Mineral requirements are going to change with the reproductive calendar of your cow herd,” he said.
The next challenge is getting cattle to eat the minerals and determining if they got enough.
Cattle won’t eat the minerals if they taste bad.
They might contain too much phosphorous, which causes a bitter taste, or the cattle do not like the flavouring agent. The salt content may affect palatability.
Cattle may have other sources of salt or salinity levels are too high in the water.
Location of the mineral feeders may affect how much cattle eat. The animals may go to them if they are exposed to wind, snow or rain. More companies are offering waterproofed minerals that shed water so that they keep better.