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    Minerals and Supplements | Winter 2011 Out Here Magazine

    Make sure your livestock get the right amount

    cattle feeding
    All hay-fed or grazing livestock should have what he calls “free-choice” minerals — minerals in block form or in loose granules that the animals can freely get to year-round.
    Out Here

    By Patty Fuller

    Photography by Greg Latza

    In making sure that your livestock gets what they need nutritionally, minerals and supplements should be part of the feed routine.

    But what to give and how much?

    For swine and poultry, purchased bagged feeds are often complete, meaning they are correct mixes of feed, minerals, and supplements for your animal’s stage of growth, condition, and intended use.

    But ensuring that hay-eating or pastured livestock get the minerals and supplements they need is more complex, says Dr. L. Wayne Greene, who heads the Department of Animal Sciences at Auburn University in Auburn, Ala.

    Choosing the right feed supplements first requires analysis of the grass or hay, soil conditions, the animal’s age, and what it will be used for, says Greene, a widely recognized expert on livestock nutrition.

    “Actively growing grasses and good-quality hay generally have an adequate amount of protein and energy to meet the animals’ requirement for this nutrient. Low-quality mature grasses and hays are generally low in protein, requiring additional protein supplementation,” Greene says.

    When low-grade hay or grass is being fed, moderate amounts of high-energy grain can be a valuable supplement, he says.

    For help on analyzing the nutritional value of the hay or grass your animals are eating, farm advisers in agricultural extension offices throughout the country can be invaluable resources. And most producers of livestock feed and supplements have nutritionists on staff to help livestock owners, too.

    Minerals most often provided through supplements include calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, and sodium, or salt. Trace amounts of zinc, copper, manganese, cobalt, iodine, and selenium are also vital to overall health, Greene says.

    “When a producer or rancher calls me stating that his cows are eating too much mineral and I do the calculation,” he says, “most often they are eating the (correct) amount.”

    “All of these minerals are needed in the animal’s body for normal function and when one becomes deficient, the animal’s production and/or health will be hampered,” he adds.

    As in humans, calcium is needed for skeleton strength. And a cow with a phosphorus deficiency may become thin, regardless of how much hay or grass it eats, Greene notes.

    All hay-fed or grazing livestock should have what he calls “free-choice” minerals — minerals in block form or in loose granules that the animals can freely get to year-round.

    If you have a mineral block, don’t place a salt block nearby. That’s because most livestock crave salt and will head for the salt blocks more often than the minerals, he says.

    The most notable problem he’s observed in his 30 years of studying mineral supplementation is that livestock owners generally don’t provide enough for their animals, Greene says.

    “When a producer or rancher calls me stating that his cows are eating too much mineral and I do the calculation,” he says, “most often they are eating the (correct) amount.”

    Longtime writer and editor Patty Fuller is also a team member in the Sonora, CA, TSC store.

     

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