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Extension Notes: Trace Minerals for Beef Cattle

By: Rebecca Konopka
Carter County Extension Agent

Grazing livestock require many different nutrients to support growth, milk production, and body tissue maintenance. Often minerals are separated into two categories. The minerals that are required in relatively large amounts are called major or macro minerals. These minerals are often listed on feed tags with a percentage sign following them. Those needed in lesser amounts are called micro, minor, or trace minerals and usually listed in parts per million (ppm).

These terms have no relationship to the metabolic importance of the specific mineral in the diet. A trace mineral can be just as important to health and performance of an animal as a macro mineral. Factors that influence the amount of specific minerals that cattle need include age, rate of growth, stage of pregnancy, and stage and level of lactation.

The essential macro minerals for beef cattle are calcium, phosphorus, chlorine, magnesium, potassium, sodium, and sulfur. The trace minerals that are needed are copper, chromium, cobalt, iodine, iron, manganese, nickel, molybdenum, selenium, and zinc. The above minerals may function as structural components of bones and teeth, electrolytes in body fluids, metabolism of nutrients, nerve conduction, reproduction, immune response, and many more functions.

Producers should always read the mineral product label. Key things to note include: target species (beef cattle, dairy cattle, etc.), mineral levels (percentage or ppm), target intake (ounces per day), feeding method (free-choice or mixing), and the ingredients or source of the minerals. Because a mineral’s source greatly influences absorption or bioavailability, mineral supplements must contain sources of high bioavailability. The levels listed on the feed tag as well as the targeted intake must then be considered. There can be various mineral mixtures with both different mineral levels and intakes. The supplement should provide adequate intake of the various minerals to balance the supply from the forage and the animal’s needs while also being cost effective.

Producers should always choose a free choice mineral. Intake with blocks is too low to provide adequate supplementation. This is true regardless of the color. Salt limits intake, so you don’t want to leave out a white salt block while feeding a free choice mineral containing salt.

The Carter County Extension Office offers a group mineral order twice per year. The office is currently taking orders for winter minerals. Kee’s Farm Service won the bid this time and will be providing two minerals to choose from: UK IRM Basic Cow/Calf Mineral containing High Magnesium ($22.75 per 50-lb bag) and a UK IRM Basic Cow/Calf Mineral ($19.25 per 50-lb bag). Mineral orders must be placed by Tuesday, November 22nd by calling the Carter County Extension Office at 474-6686. Minerals can be picked up at Kee’s Farm Service on or after Friday, December 16th.

Spring calving herds should be feeding a High Magnesium Mineral from January through Mid-May and a basic cow/calf mineral from mid-May through December. Fall Calving Herds should be feeding the basic cow/calf mineral from November through July. These herds will switch to the High Magnesium Mineral for August to October. The high magnesium minerals help prevent grass tetany. Grass tetany is a disorder caused by an abnormally low amount of magnesium in the animal’s blood. In cattle, it generally affects older, lactating cows but can also be seen in dry cows, young cows, and in rare cases, growing calves. Symptoms often observed include nervousness, lack of coordination, muscular spasms, staggering, convulsions, coma, milk yield decrease, and death.

For more information on beef cattle minerals contact the Carter County Extension Office. Educational programs of the Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service serve all people regardless of economic or social status and will not discriminate on the basis of race, color, ethnic origin, national origin, creed, religion, political belief, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, pregnancy, marital status, genetic information, age, veteran status, or physical or mental disability.

Upcoming Events:

  • Farm Estate Planning – November 3rd @ 6:00 PM via Zoom – Call 474-6686 to register.
  • Extension District Board – November 8th @ 10:00 AM
  • Fertilizer Academy – November 8th @ 6:00 PM via Zoom – Call 474-6686 to register.
  • Northeast Area Livestock Association Meeting – November 15th @ 6:00 PM – Topic: Targeted Bull Selection
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