Managing Mineral Intake
Minerals are an important part of the total ration for cows and calves. They are necessary for reproduction, health, growth and milk production. In most areas, minerals are not adequate in the forage or concentrate and must be provided. Many times, that is in the form of a free-choice product in a mineral feeder.
It’s a common thought that cows will regulate themselves on mineral and will eat the amount they need, but there are so many factors impacting intake that you can’t depend on the cow to balance her own needs. Two factors that can be easily adjusted are the type of feeder you use and where you position it.
- Wind vane feeders have been popular for many years and do offer some weather protection and good access.
- Wooden covered feeders also offer weather protection and easy access.
- Ground-level tub with a rubber flap keeps the mineral covered. Cows learn to lift the flap after a short time. Some producers raise these on a platform to make access easier.
- Tires have been used for a long time as an inexpensive container, particularly on large ranches and big acreages requiring a lot of feeders.
Locating the feeder where it’s easy to fill is not necessarily where the cattle will find it. Location can be used to manage intake in some cases. If cattle are not eating enough, the feeders can be moved close to a watering or loafing area. If the cattle are eating too much, the feeders can be moved a bit further away.
The Take-Home Message
There are a number of factors to take into consideration when managing minerals, including feeder type and location, cow size, mineral formulation and the mixing of minerals. Proper measurement and management of intake will pay dividends in effectiveness of these nutrients and additives. If you are unsure of what your herd needs, please contact your Nutrena representative today.