Mineral feeding key to good cattle health

By Gary Sliworsky
Ag rep, Emo

Pasture season soon will be in full swing and many producers will have cattle out on grass.
Let’s not forget the importance of mineral feeding while on pasture. Calf growth, cow reproductive status, and general health all are influenced by the intake of adequate amounts of salt and mineral.
Pasture mineral feeding studies show interesting results. Heavier weaning weights and improved conception rates are well-documented from pasture trials where the correct quantity and analysis of mineral were supplied.
Consider the following guidelines when choosing your mineral program for pasture:
Note that minerals are sold by proportions of calcium to phosphorous to magnesium. For example, a 20:10:6 tag guarantee means 20 percent calcium, 10 percent phosphorus, and six percent magnesium.
Use sheltered mineral feeders and supply quantities that will last no longer than five days.
Some producers mix a dairy pre-mix (usually salt-free, and often higher in trace minerals and vitamin levels than “free choice” cattle minerals) and cobalt iodized salt, at a blending rate of 1:1 salt/pre-mix or 1:2 salt/pre-mix depending on pasture conditions and water availability.
Choose the mineral suitable for your pasture type. If you have a grass-based pasture, use a higher calcium mineral like 3:1 or 2:1.
For mixed legume/grass pastures, use a balanced mineral (typically 2:1 or 1:1). For pastures heavy to legumes, you may have to consider a 1:2 mineral.
If additional phosphorus is required (such as near breeding time), consider a flavouring agent mixed in the mineral.
Evaluate the magnesium levels required. Normally a four percent magnesium content mineral is adequate but in the case of fast-growing grass pasture, higher levels may be required to avoid grass tetany.
The salt content of the mineral offered usually drives mineral intake. Cattle have a natural physiological requirement for salt—most cattle salt and mineral needs are met with an intake of about two-four ounces of a salt/mineral mix per day.
If conditions warrant additional salt, consider offering it in block form.
As with all animal nutrient requirements, have a qualified nutritionist review your pasture feeding and mineral program.