Beef Cattle Mineral FAQs
Get answers to your questions about mineral feed.
Are minerals all the same, and should I buy the cheapest I can find?
Answer: While the price of mineral is not a definitive indicator of quality, products that are “dirt-cheap” may not be worth much more than dirt itself! Quality ingredients that cattle can utilize efficiently have greater demand and higher value, thus often a higher price. By definition, quality ingredients have a knowledge base behind them that is supported by extraction and refinement processes, as well as research that measures their biological value. A mineral element can be supplied by a variety of forms.
For example, zinc may be provided by zinc sulfate, zinc carbonate, zinc oxide, zinc chloride or one of many organic forms. Some forms are effective for supplementation, while others are less available and provide little or no biological value. However, all of them can be used in a product to meet the tagged specifications for mineral.
What kind of feeders should I put the mineral in?
Answer: Right Now® Mineral is weatherized and resists wind losses very well, so it does not need to be placed in weatherproof feeders. Most producers use inverted pick-up tires that are fastened to a wooden base or empty protein supplement tubs. In addition to keeping the mineral from being scattered or wasted by cattle, a prime concern in feeder selection is to use a vessel that allows calves unrestricted access to the mineral. Very often we find that wind-vane feeders and devices that use flaps that cattle have to learn to lift preclude many calves from consuming mineral.
Where should the mineral feeders be placed?
Answer: Feeders should be placed in locations where cattle will find them frequently. Placing them along trails between the feed ground and water supplies is generally very successful. Adjusting the distance that mineral is located from water sources is a key tool used to control mineral consumption; moving the mineral closer to water sources generally increases mineral intake, while moving feeders farther from water will often decrease intake. Over the course of the grazing season, mineral locations should change to keep in synch with the cattle. In fact, many ranchers use mineral as a tool to draw cattle to areas they want the cattle to graze.
How many mineral feeders do I need to put out?
Answer: A good rule of thumb is to provide one mineral feeder for every 20 to 30 cows. Depending upon the geography of a particular grazing area, adjustments may need to be made. Evaluate the range and determine mineral feeding areas that will provide an opportunity for every cow to find a feeder at least every other day. Your Cargill consultant can assist you in this endeavor.
How often should I put out fresh mineral?
Answer: Even though Right Now Mineral is protected from the elements, we suggest that fresh mineral be delivered on a weekly basis. Doing so will allow you to monitor intake and adjust feeding locations and number of feeders as situations change and challenges arise.
How much mineral should my cattle eat?
Answer: If Right Now Mineral is properly managed on a year-round basis, we anticipate that average intake will be between 3 and 4 ounces per head per day.
Sometimes my cattle eat too much mineral and other times they hardly eat any. Why is that?
Answer: Mineral intake patterns change with diet quality, a cow’s stage of production, climatic changes and cattle management. Seasonal fluctuations will always exist, and they become more challenging in larger pastures or grazing allotments. Fortunately, cattle can utilize mineral reserves in their tissues during periods of non-consumption and put some in storage when intake is adequate. Many intake challenges can be addressed by adjusting feeder locations.
Keep in mind that nutritional wisdom is a myth, so just because cattle aren’t eating mineral doesn’t mean they don’t need it. Perhaps they can’t find it, or they simply found something they’d rather eat.
My cattle are eating too much mineral. What do I do?
Answer: Before making any changes, calculate mineral consumption and confirm your suspicions.
One of the first things to consider is the location of mineral feeders with respect to water sources. Moving mineral feeders further away from waterers or creeks often helps to decrease mineral intake. Managing mineral intake in dry lot situations can be very difficult, as cattle sometimes consume mineral simply because they are bored. In dry lot situations, it may be necessary to provide mineral on a daily basis.
A final thought regarding excessive mineral consumption … if dry matter intake is limited, cattle will eat just about anything. Make certain that your cows are getting enough to eat and that the feed is palatable. In situations where the feed is coarse, rank or spoiled, cattle will often over-consume any supplemental feed offered.