Mineral Programs for Beef Cows

March 2008

Choosing a mineral program doesn't have to be complex.

First, protein and energy components of the nutrition program impact the mineral supplementation program. Proteins aid in absorption, transfer, and metabolism and are critical in maintaining the absorption of trace minerals by intestinal tissue. This by no means indicates to over-feed protein, but illustrates that an effective mineral program has to be in unison with a total nutritional program for the beef cow herd.

Second, it is important to have a reference that shows the cow's requirement and how minerals change as the cow changes from one phase of production to the next, gestation to lactation. The best resource is the 1996 NRC for Beef Cattle. Producers will notice that for most minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, sodium, ranges are provided and there is a maximum tolerable level which means if the mineral is consumed above these levels, a toxicity can occur.

Third, effective mineral decisions must include an estimate of minerals provided in the diet (forages, feeds, etc) that the cow is consuming. Mineral content in forages can vary from location to location. In many cases, if the soil is deficient in a mineral, there is a high likelihood that the forage will be low in that mineral also.

In addition, when cattle are grazing, we know they select a diet that is higher in quality than would be selected when a person takes a clipped sample of the same forages. So, determining the minerals and amounts the diet is supplying is a challenge.

Rick Rasby Dr. Rick Rasby, Professor of Animal Science
Animal Science, University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Lincoln, NE