Supplementation varies in summer
As producers are transitioning to summer grazing programs, several factors should be considered, including whether to use a summer mineral program.
“I think there’s probably more emphasis put on the winter mineral program in many cases. I think there’s the potential to have a different mineral program in the summer,” says University of Wyoming Beef Extension Specialist Steve Paisley.
Many producers elect to use a generic mineral program throughout the year. Depending on the time of year, the use of different forages at different stages of production within the cowherd may mean different mineral requirements.
“In the summer, our cows are out on green grass. Typically their mineral requirements are met so we wouldn’t have to address them nearly like we do in the winter months when we’re grazing dormant forages,” continues Paisley.
Producers may often be able to transition to a summer mineral program after breeding requirements have been met.
“I think after breeding, if we have any type of artificial insemination (AI) program, or certainly once we turn cows out on summer grass, especially initially, just providing a good mineralized salt at that time is key,” notes Paisley.
“It’s hard to be generic in designing a program because every location and operation is a little bit different,” laughs Paisley.
Traditionally, Wyoming soils are low in the minerals zinc and copper. As such, most operations will have a baseline requirement that needs to be met year-round. However, it is beneficial for producers to know any specific requirements for their operation.
“Some locations have different issues, like high sulfur or high iron that competes with copper, making the copper requirements go up,” says Paisley.
It is also important to consider that there may be different requirements within different locations of one operation, such as water sources.
“Typically depending on our location, our water sources during the summer months may be utilizing stock ponds,” notes Paisley. “We may be utilizing water that has a different mineral balance than what we were using for well water in the winter months.”
While many requirements may be lower during the summer months, there are still important periods of time to provide a strong mineral program.
“We will have situations and things we want to address. Certainly we’ll want to have a good mineral program in place going into weaning. We want to have calves healthy that are able to withstand a disease challenge,” emphasizes Paisley.
It may be beneficial for producers to consider using different mineral programs for the different age groups of cattle to provide for production requirements.
“Certainly providing mineral to the cow/calf pairs would be more important than providing it to the summer yearlings or replacement heifers that aren’t weaning a calf,” says Paisley.
While the cows may not have high mineral requirements during weaning due to high-quality forage production, it may be useful to provide a complete mineral supplement to the pairs to improve weaning success.
“In my mind, we want to provide mineral more for the calf than for the cow in many cases. I think it’s important to provide a total mineral package to those pairs just because we’re weaning those calves,” Paisley says.
“In general terms, we regulate mineral intake with salt,” notes Paisley.
Cattle typically don’t recognize a need for minerals such as calcium or potassium but will self-regulate their salt needs.
Producers may need to change how they are feeding minerals to the herd during summer months if they were utilizing lick tubs.
“In many cases, in the fall and winter months when we’re utilizing lick tubs, the minerals are provided. We don’t provide any type of compressed molasses or lick tub during the summer months,” cautions Paisley.
If feasible, he recommends using loose salt to supplement minerals, as it is easier to regulate and manage. However, other factors should be considered in choosing how to supplement.
“I know, in many cases, for producers who have Forest Service or BLM allotments, it’s difficult to carry loose mineral up in different locations. In those cases, a lot of the time we have to rely pretty heavily on block mineral,” comments Paisley.
Emilee Gibb is editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org