Mineral Supplementation in Beef Cattle Management

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cow grazingBeef cattle and other livestock require a number of different minerals, macro and micro, for optimal growth, reproduction, and just maintaining their health in general. A good mineral program specific to each farming operation is key to efficient production on forages. Good quality forages and grains can provide a large selection of the required minerals needed by livestock. However, no matter how high quality a forage is they can still be deficient in one or more minerals. Therefore, producers should select a mineral supplement program that will best meet their animals requirements and avoid excesses.

Trace or microminerals such as copper, zinc, selenium, and salt, typically require more attention but some forages may be also be deficient in macrominerals such as calcium and phosphorus. As a producer the starting point to knowing what mineral supplementation program you need is to assess your forage to know the mineral levels of what your cattle are eating. For most tall fescue systems supplementation is generally needed for salt, copper, zinc, selenium, and magnesium. Once a producer knows what to include in their program they will need to first, find a good complete mineral or have it custom mixed and then keep up with the daily intake level (make sure your cows are consuming the right amount). 

If cattle are in poor condition even though they are being fed good forage and they have a rough shaggy appearance then the mineral supplementation program may need to be reevaluated. After considering what minerals need to be supplemented and the amount that your livestock needs to consume, also think about a decent mineral feeder. A feeder does not need to be expensive, it just needs to keep the majority of the rain out, and be durable as well as portable. Choose one that is easy to manage for you. Instructional videos and literature on building your own durable and inexpensive mineral feeder are available.

Producers or prospective producers can find out more information pertaining to this article by contacting Kendra Fortner at the N.C. Cooperative Extension of Jackson County office at 828-586-4009 or the N.C. Cooperative Extension of Swain County office at 828-488-3848 or by email at kendra_norton@ncsu.edu.