Managing Mineral Intake

Minerals are an important part of the total ration for cows and calves. They're necessary for reproduction, health, growth, and milk production. Unfortunately, in most areas, minerals aren't adequately supplied in the forage or concentrate and must be provided in the form of a free-choice product in a mineral feeder. In this post, we'll talk about some important considerations for regulating mineral intake with these products.

It’s a common thought that when you put out a free-choice mineral product, cows will regulate themselves and eat the amount they need. But that's rarely the case. There are a number of factors impacting a cow's intake, and you can't simply depend on the cow to balance her own needs.

Fortunately, there are two important factors that can adjusted relatively easily.

Feeder type

One of the first considerations in regulating mineral intake is the type of feeder being used. Ideally, you want a feeder that won't intimidate your cows, giving them easy access to the mineral without exposing unconsumed product to the elements, which can cause it to clump or spoil.

Common, proven options include:

  • Wind vane feeders. These have been popular for many years because they offer good access and some weather protection from wind-driven rain.
  • Wooden covered feeders. These come in a variety of shapes and sizes and also offer good weather protection and easy access.
  • Ground-level tub with rubber flap. These do a good job of keeping the mineral covered, and cows quickly learn how to lift the flap. Some producers raise these on a platform to make access easier.
  • Tires. These can be fashioned to form an inexpensive mineral container and offer an economic solution for large ranches and big acreages requiring a large number of feeders.

Feeder location

Placement of your feeder is equally important in regulating mineral intake. It's tempting to locate the feeder where it will be easy to fill, but that isn't necessarily where the cattle will find it. Ideally you want to place your feeder such that cattle will regularly pass by it, but not so frequently that they overconsume. In some cases, moving your feeders can help manage intake:

  • If cattle aren't eating enough, feeders can be moved closer to a watering hole or loafing area. This will encourage more frequent access.
  • If cattle are eating too much, feeders can be moved further away from these high-traffic areas, making access slightly more difficult.

Know your cattle's needs

Of course, feeder type and location are only two of the factors to take into consideration when managing your herd's mineral intake. Cow size, mineral formulation, and the mixing of minerals with other rations all play a role as well. And proper measurement and management of intake will pay dividends in effectiveness of these nutrients and additives for your animal's diet.

That's why we're here to help! If you're unsure of what your herd needs, call or stop by one of our stores today. We carry a number of high-quality mineral products, like Cattle Grazers Mineral and the popular Right Now mineral blends, and our friendly, knowledgeable staff will be glad to help you select the right product for your needs.


This post is adapted (with permission) from content proudly supplied by our partners at Nutrena and Cargill Animal Nutrition. The original article appears here.

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