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Mineral programs can add value

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Published May 2, 2020

            For many cattle producers, the chaos of calving season is winding down. Now, they are busy branding their calves and gearing up to turn their cattle out to pasture. During this time, Kansas State University Beef Systems Specialist Dr. Justin Waggoner says it is imperative producers think about the value of adding a mineral program for cattle that will be turned out to green grass all summer.

            “Once our cattle go to green grass, life is usually pretty easy for cattlemen,” Waggoner states. “But it is still important for producers to understand mineral deficiencies and what they can do in terms of a nutritional program to improve their cattle’s productivity and performance.”

Product tag

            When it comes to implementing a strong mineral program, Waggoner suggests the first thing producers do is take a look at the product tag to understand what they are buying before they make an expensive investment.

            “There are so many different products for so many different occasions with so many different brand names,” he notes. “The only way we can sort through all of these products to find one that fits our particular situation is to look at the product tag.”

            Waggoner also notes there is a lot of information to sort through on the product tag as well.

            “Truthfully, I believe the most important information, the information producers need to look at first, is at the bottom of that product tag,” Waggoner says. “This is where it will state the target consumption of that mineral, or in other words, how much we will need to supply.”

            Waggoner explains there are two common mineral consumption levels in the beef cattle industry – two ounces per head per day and four ounces per head per day.

            He then notes there are two important considerations to keep in mind regarding this information.

            “The first big factor is cost. A mineral targeting a four ounce per head per day consumption rate may be cheaper, but we will also be going through it faster. Whereas, a mineral with a two ounce per head per day consumption rate may be more expensive, but it will last us longer,” he explains.

            “The second thing producers need to pay attention to is if they are achieving that target consumption rate,” he adds.

            Another bit of information producers should be aware of on the bottom of the product tag is salt content, according to Waggoner.

            “We need to ask ourselves if the mineral was formulated as the sole source of salt or if it is a supplemental product,” he notes.

            Waggoner continues, “The other information on the bottom of the tag we need to be aware of is the source of those minerals. Are they organic or inorganic?”

            He explains inorganic mineral sources are oxides and sulfates, and if producers choose to use inorganic minerals, they should lean toward sulfates because they are more bioavailable for cattle.

            “Then, there are organic sources of mineral, and these usually bond to an amino acid,” he says. “Research has shown organic minerals tend to be more bioavailable than inorganic minerals.”

The limiting mineral

            Targeting the most limiting mineral should be a producers second consideration when creating a mineral program for their cattle, according to Waggoner.

            “For most grazing beef systems, the most deficient macro mineral is phosphorus. In fact, it is one of the most common mineral deficiencies in cattle across the globe,” he notes.

            Waggoner points out deficiencies in sodium, magnesium and copper are also common, although they are not nearly as common as phosphorus.

            “When choosing mineral, I first look at the phosphorus content, then I look at the copper content,” Waggoner states. “Producers also need to tailor their mineral selection based on the production stage of their cattle and the season of the year.”

            In fact, Waggoner notes the content of forage phosphorus should have a lot to do with their mineral program.

            “Forages change throughout the growing season. Typically their phosphorus content is highest in early spring and lowest in the fall,” he explains. “On average, forage has about 0.1 to 0.2 percent phosphorus on a dry matter basis.”

            He also notes lactating cattle need to consume much higher levels of phosphorus then a cow at maintenance.

            “Copper requirements stay relatively similar regardless of the season or production stage,” he says. “It is around 10 ppm per head per day.”

            Hannah Bugas is the assistant editor for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to

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