Why Mineral Consumption Matters

Cattle mineral nutrition is complex and often confusing, but one strategy to help ranchers better understand their mineral program is to monitor mineral consumption. This goes back to the old adage, “You can’t manage what you don’t measure.”

Mineral supplement tags provide the recommended daily intake based on specific product formulations. Recommended intakes can vary widely depending on the brand and type of product, with the most common being from 1-4 oz. per day for loose minerals. Producers should always read the mineral tag to know how much the cattle should be consuming and to determine whether desired consumption is occurring within an individual herd. There are a variety of ways to accomplish this. For the big picture, figure out pounds of mineral fed in the last year. Multiply the total pounds by 16 to get the number of ounces delivered. Divide the ounces by 365 days. Finally divide the ounces delivered per day by the number of head in the herd to determine average mineral intake per head per day.

Example:        

5,000 lbs x 16 oz per lb = 80,000 oz
80,000 oz / 365 days = 219 oz per day
219 oz per day / 100 head = 2.19 oz per head per day

Another way to monitor consumption is to keep a mineral delivery record. Make note of quantity of mineral delivered each time and how many days a given quantity lasts. This will help identify times when the grass is changing, which can influence changes in mineral consumption. For instance, cattle will consume mineral differently when grass is lush and growing rapidly than when it is dormant. The calculation is the same as listed above, but the number of days changes, depending on individual situations.

Example:        

100 lbs x 16 oz per lb = 1,600 oz
1,600 oz / 7 days = 229 oz per day
229 oz per day / 100 head = 2.29 oz per head per day

If consumption is less than desired, dried molasses is one tool to increase palatability of the mineral to move consumption to the desired level. It may require some trial and error to find the desired level. A starting point would be adding 1 part dried molasses to 4 parts mineral. This would be approximately 12.5 lbs per 50 lb bag of mineral. If cattle over-consume the mineral due to the addition of molasses, cut the molasses in half. Continue this process until the desired consumption is reached, or consider changing brands or mineral formulations to something more palatable.  If cattle are over-consuming mineral, it may be necessary to add salt to reduce intake. Other issues besides palatability that may influence consumption of mineral include the animal factors such as age and experience, type and placement of mineral feeder, composition of mineral supplement, and forage quality and availability. 

Once producers have an idea of how much mineral their cattle are consuming, they can start to evaluate potential modifications to their mineral supplementation program. First, evaluate the mineral tag compared to the cattle’s requirements, along with mineral content of forage and water. This may require taking samples and sending them to a laboratory for analysis. This will help identify deficiencies, toxicities and interactions to ensure the mineral supplement is providing the correct level of nutrients.

Taking time to monitor mineral consumption is an easy task that can help guide management decisions. Ensuring cattle are consuming mineral at the appropriate level is key to proper mineral nutrition and overall cattle health and performance. If you are interested in an Excel spreadsheet to monitor mineral consumption, please contact Adele Harty.

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