Don’t Let Weather Impact Calf Development

Management : Cow & Calf

Nutrition : Minerals

Ted Perry,

Beef Technical Solutions

More than 75 percent of fetal calf growth occurs in the last trimester,1 due in part to the rapid growth of a calf’s tissues.

For many beef producers the period of rapid development also coincides with extremely variable weather conditions that often include rain, wind, sleet and snow. These conditions not only put a drain on cows’ energy stores, but may also have adverse effects on the quality of your mineral sources.

Minerals play a critical role in calf growth and development, particularly during the final trimester. Mineral deficiencies can lead to small or weak calves, decreased milk production, reduced or later conception, and poor immunity, ultimately leading to reduced weaning weights.2 The challenge is to overcome the elements to meet the needs of the cow and her developing calf.

We often see mineral get wet during the winter and spring months and, in some instances, the moisture then turns a traditional mineral source into a hard, brick-like substance, one that has been paid for and that cattle won’t eat. In other instances, mineral may still be in its original form, but the quality of that mineral has been quite literally washed away. It can be an economic drain and have a potential lifelong impact on the developing calf.
A balanced, weatherized mineral can be a solution to help address these challenges. 

Minerals in the homestretch, and beyond
When thinking about mineral supplementation during the final portion of gestation, we try to meet the demands of the maternal system. The maternal system has been put in overdrive trying to meet the needs of the rapidly growing fetus. An imbalance in any form of mineral may lead to a reduction in calf growth and development during this stage. For instance, copper and zinc play a role in immune function, so if a cow is shorted on copper and/or zinc the calf could potentially have health issues later on.3

The importance of mineral supplementation during the last trimester can’t be stressed enough, but producers should keep in mind that this is just one period of high demand that a cow faces in a year. 

The cow is never just working for herself, she either has a calf at her side, is pregnant with her next calf or both. Think about early-stage embryonic development, when many muscle tissues and organs are being developed, and provide the proper mineral nutrition to the cow necessary for that development.

You can’t be 100 percent sure of what the long-term generational effect might be if mineral supplements are inadequate during these high demand timeframes.

It’s really important to keep mineral supplementation up long-term, even year-round, to help make up for the potential shortcomings that mother nature and forages might throw the cow’s way. Minerals shortages in-utero can’t be made up for after its feet hit the ground.

Not all minerals are created equal, and it’s important to feed a quality, weatherized, balanced mineral to ensure that both your cow and her unborn calf are receiving the trace minerals that they need for optimal performance no matter the weather.

Try Purina® minerals today through the Proof Pays trial.

1Endecott, R. Nutrition-Reproduction Interactions in the Third Trimester Cow. Retrieved February 11, 2015, from:  
2Ward, M. & Lardy, G. Beef Cattle Mineral Nutrition. Retrieved February 11, 2015, from
3Spears, J. (1995). Improving Cattle Health through Trace Mineral Supplementation. Proceedings from the Range Beef Cow Symposium XIV, 1995, Gering, Nebraska.