Monitor mineral intake closely during summer

By: Glenn Selk

Summer often becomes a busy time of year for ranchers (especially during haying season).  Don’t forget to check the mineral feeders or blocks to be certain that they are supplying the minerals that your cows need.   In some cases, medications may be recommended by your veterinarian to be included in the mineral mix.  Cow calf operators will want to monitor mineral consumption closely to be certain that the label-recommended amounts are being consumed by the cattle.   In the near future, a “Veterinary Feed Directive” (VFD) will be necessary for most antibiotic feeding in mineral supplements.  Contact and work with your local large animal veterinarian about the appropriate VFD for your operation.  For more information about the Veterinary Feed Directive refer to this brochure from Oklahoma State University Extension.

Placement of mineral feeders and blocks can aid in achieving optimum mineral intake.  Place them in areas where cattle spend a lot of time. Minerals should be placed in loafing areas, near water sources, in shady areas, or any other location that tends be a popular place for the herd to congregate.  A rule of thumb is to provide one mineral feeding station for every 30 to 50 cows.  Check feeders at least once a week and keep a clean, fresh supply of minerals present at all times. A good feeder should keep minerals dry, be portable and hold up to abuse and corrosion. Open tubs are not adequate in high rainfall areas.

Choosing a mineral mix requires understanding of the animal’s requirements and the minerals available in the forages and feedstuffs available to the animals.  Mineral needs tend to be area specific and change with soil type, fertilization rates, rainfall and many other factors.  Mineral requirements also will depend on animal age and stage of production.  An excellent reference source for Oklahoma beef producers about mineral supplementation can be found in the Oklahoma State University Extension Bulletin E-861 “Vitamin and Mineral Nutrition of Grazing Cattle.”