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Experts provide mineral feeding tips for cattle

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Beef cattle experts from Kansas State University’s Beef Cattle Institute (BCI) discussed the best forms of mineral supplementation in the BCI Cattle Chat podcast dated Jan. 15. 

                  While supplemental minerals differ in physical form and chemical composition, BCI’s Veterinarians Dr. Brad White and Dr. Bob Larson, Economist Dr. Dustin Pendell and Nutritionist Dr. Phillip Lancaster note the best mineral to provide cattle with is the one they will eat. 

Mineral consumption

                  “The form of the mineral influences the consumption and the variation of consumption within the herd,” says Lancaster. “Research has shown some animals don’t like to consume very much of a mineral block, while some animals will sit at a molasses-based protein tub and consume way more than they are supposed to.”

                  He explains ideally every animal in the herd gets exactly the amount of mineral they need. However, this is hard to attain with free-choice delivery methods.

                  “If producers are feeding a protein supplement or something similar, I recommend adding the mineral into the mix to create a complete supplement,” Lancaster shares. “This way, producers know every animal is coming to the bunk every day and consuming the amount they are supposed to.”

Balancing needs

                  Lancaster adds it is important to balance the needs of the cattle with the needs of the producer. Loose mineral and mineral mixes help to manage supplement consumption, but the feasibility of providing mineral must be considered. Labor availability and distance to the cows are issues Lancaster runs into often. 

                  “Hard-pressed supplements such as blocks and tubs are popular because they don’t get blown away, they don’t need changed out often, they are stable in the environment and the producer invests less from a labor standpoint,” he shares. “I think the loose mineral form is the best way to get fairly even consumption, but it has to be managed by someone.”

                  The panel of experts note monitoring the intake or disappearance of mineral supplementation is important. While intake varies by individual animals in the herd, each mineral supplement is formulated for a certain level of consumption.

Chelated minerals

                  In their most simple form, minerals are rocks and metals, the experts explain. An inorganic mineral would be the actual mineral animals need such as copper, iron, manganese and zinc, while an organic mineral is made by taking something with a carbon base, like an amino acid or protein and adding it to molecules of a mineral, they continue.

                   “Chelated or proteinated minerals are made when an amino acid or protein is added to the mineral,” says Weaber. “The theory behind chelated or proteinated minerals is the mineral will go through the intestinal tract better, and the animal will be able to absorb and uptake the minerals better. The difference is an inorganic is the mineral in the soil, and the organic is a man-made product that adds to the minerals.”

                  “The benefit of the chelated minerals is increased bioavailability,” Lancaster adds. “More minerals are available for absorption into tissues of the animal.”

                  Lancaster explains chelated and proteinated minerals tend to be more costly, and producers have to consider if the benefit out-weighs the cost.  

                  “In most cases, the answer is no. The high-quality minerals based on sulfates and chlorides, rather than oxides, do a really good job of maintaining mineral levels within animals. The place for a chelated mineral is when high-quality inorganic minerals are not sufficient,” he continues.               

                  The example Lancaster uses is cattle still showing mineral deficiency, even on a high-quality inorganic mineral supplement. Larson notes some mineral deficiencies might be pasture-specific, depending on the minerals available in the soil. 

                   “Sometimes producers don’t spend a lot of time and money testing forage for minerals because it is expensive and time consuming,” says Lancaster. “Because of this, minerals are often overfed as soil mineral levels are unknown and reducing the possibility of a mineral deficiency is the goal.”

                  Averi Hales is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to

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