Beef Cow Mineral – Vitamin Nutrition

Where do you start when it comes to minerals and vitamins for your cows?

Where do you start when it comes to minerals and vitamins for your cows?  What minerals and vitamins should I be feeding to my cattle? How much are they consuming? Isn’t a mineral block good enough? Most of us start with mineral nutrition by asking lots of questions while others completely ignore the issue and do nothing about it. In the next few paragraphs, I hope to enlighten you a little on the basics of mineral and vitamin supplementation.

Minerals needed by your cows can be classified as either “macro-minerals” or “micro-minerals”. Macro-minerals are those nutrients that include calcium (Ca), chlorine (Cl), magnesium (Mg), phosphorus (P), potassium (K), sodium (Na) and sulfur(S). Micro-minerals, commonly called trace minerals, are nutrients required daily in smaller amounts. This in no way decreases their significance. They are cobalt (Co), copper (Cu), iodine (I), iron (Fe), manganese (Mn), molybdenum (Mo), selenium (Se) and zinc (Zn). In some, cases chromium and nickel may be required in ultra-trace amounts.

Each mineral has a specific job and they are required in varying amounts. As a beef producer, it is important that you educate yourself on their importance and role in the life of a beef animal. There are other considerations you need to think of when considering mineral supplementation. One such case deals with iron and copper. Did you know that if you are in an area where drinking water or forages are high in iron, copper may need to be increased to prevent a copper deficiency?

Mineral sources vary in their bio-availability, which means not all minerals are created equal. They can differ in their ability to be absorbed and utilized by your cows. Make sure that you read your mineral tag carefully so you know what, and how much of, each mineral it contains.

As with any feedstuff, ensure that your mineral-vitamin mix is fresh. Vitamins will lose their potency over time. Michigan State University Extension Bulletin E-2810 recommends that you keep the supplements fresh, cool, dry and out of direct sunlight. It is also recommended that you keep no more than a 90-day supply on hand. As a manager, you should know how much your animals are consuming. Most mineral-vitamin mixes are made assuming that the animals will eat a certain amount. If you are not measuring this, you won’t know when an increase or decrease in consumption occurs. Salt is the regulator used in the self-fed mineral-vitamin mixes. If you are feeding one of these, it is recommended that no other salt be made available.

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to mineral-vitamin nutrition. There are many sources of information available to you and I encourage you to learn all that you can. A great place to start is with bulletin E-2810 entitled Upper Midwest Beef Cows Mineral-Vitamin Nutrition, or by calling Kable Thurlow at 989-426-7741.

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