Mineral is only a fraction of cattle’s overall feed intake, but it’s essential to support reproduction and overall performance. When managing summer mineral, the most important thing is to keep track of intake so you know if cattle are eating on target.
When the summer heat starts to rise, grasses dry down causing forages to lignify. As grasses across the U.S. go through lignification, they become deficient in trace minerals, including zinc, manganese, copper and selenium. On the other hand, sodium, calcium and iron levels can increase in summer, decreasing cattle appetites for mineral supplements.
Intake levels vary by product because different minerals have different nutrient concentrations. A more concentrated mineral may have a 2-ounce per head per day consumption level, while a less concentrated mineral may have a 6-ounce per head per day target. Tubs typically have a higher consumption level, but they’re great at drawing cattle to consume mineral more consistently. If you’re struggling with mineral intake, I recommend tubs.
Consistent mineral intake also increases the effectiveness of fly control and other additives. Effective feed-through fly control is all about consistent coverage – you want all manure paddies to contain Altosid® IGR to stop fly pupae from developing into biting adult flies. If cattle aren’t eating mineral consistently or at the target intake levels, horn fly populations will likely go up. If cows are fighting horn flies, their mineral intake may decline even further.
You can entice cattle to eat more mineral in the summer by focusing on palatability. A mineral with high levels of phosphorus may have a bitter taste. Also, most trace minerals are metallic or acidic, which isn’t appealing to cattle. Palatants, such as molasses or natural flavorings, can help increase intake.
If you’re struggling with mineral intake in summer, you may need to up your palatant game. Purina® Wind and Rain® Summer Season mineral includes a high-intensity sweetener and other ingredients to improve taste above and beyond typical palatants. Purina® Wind and Rain® Summer Season mineral also uses a phosphorus level of 6% to help reduce bitterness while still meeting cattle nutrient requirements.
Water placement and quality also have a big impact on summer mineral intake. When you’re dehydrated, the last thing you want to do is eat something salty (like mineral). Cattle will have more consistent mineral intake if they have regular access to clean water. If cattle are eating too much mineral, move it away from water sources or loafing areas and vice versa. Cattle spend more time in those areas and are more likely to eat mineral if placed there.
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