Minerals and Vitamins for beef cows: Making it all balance

Don’t cheat on mineral and vitamins for beef cows when managing their diet.

Adequate mineral and vitamin nutrition is vital for optimizing animal growth, lactation, reproduction and immune response. Once the mineral status of the animal drops below threshold levels, it may affect response to vaccination, immunity to disease and parasite challenges and growth. Michigan State University has done excellent work formulating beef cow mineral and vitamin recommendations.

When selecting a commercially manufactured supplement mix, it is important to note not only the concentration of minerals but also their source. Mineral sources vary in bioavailability, or how much of the mineral can be absorbed and utilized. For example, copper sulfate is well utilized by cattle, whereas copper oxide has nearly zero availability. Various sources and their relative bioavailability are given for comparison in the bulletin referenced below. Be sure to read feed tags carefully. Cost should not be the sole consideration.

Vitamins in a mineral and vitamin supplement will lose their potency over time. For this reason, it’s important to keep mineral and vitamin supplements fresh, cool, dry and out of direct sunlight. Only as much supplement as can be consumed in a 90-day period should be purchased or mixed at one time. You may want to check with your feed manufacturer to verify the date on which the supplement was made.

Managers should record the amount and date of mineral feeding so consumption can be monitored. Most mineral mixes have specific consumption goals. Intake will vary depending on previous mineral and vitamin feeding, current feed sources, cow production stage, weather conditions, etc. Keeping supplements dry and readily accessible will encourage normal consumption. Expect to spend $20-30/cow-calf pair/year for a high quality mineral and vitamin program.

For more detailed information about mineral-vitamin management for your beef cattle enterprise, visit the MSU Beef Team website or view MSU Extension Bulletin E-2810 Upper Midwest Beef Cow Mineral-Vitamin Nutrition. You may also email me directly at gouldk@msu.edu.

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