Not knowing the nutritive value of a feedstuff can lead to less than optimum resource management. Unfortunately, many producers overlook testing the forages they graze. In numerous studies conducted in various parts of the country, native pastures and as well as irrigated pastures have been shown to be lacking in minerals needed for essential functions.

Conversely, some forages in studies have shown excessive amounts of minerals. While protein and energy requirements must be met first, mineral supplementation should be viewed as an essential component of every grazing beef cattle producer’s nutritional management program. The key to mineral supplementation is providing the right amounts. Too much mineral can be just as much of a problem as not providing enough. Without knowing what your pastures are providing, choosing the correct mineral supplement is difficult.

Minerals are important in all functions from bone and muscle development, disease resistance, skin and hoof health, milk production, fetal development, nervous system, fertility and appetite. If required levels are not met, production and growth can suffer. There are many interactions between minerals which can lead to interference of absorption.

There is proven antagonism between increased sulfur which can lead to decreased copper absorption. High molybdenum can also bind copper and prevent its absorption. Calcium and phosphorus must be provided by a diet in the correct levels and ratio. If more phosphorous than calcium is consumed, then calcium absorption may be impaired and skeletal malformations, poor growth, and muscle disorders can occur. Even if a diet contains adequate calcium, excessive phosphorus intake may cause abnormalities. With the necessity of providing certain minerals at specific levels, the need for testing forages and native pastures is wise.

When a ServiTech’s Forage + Minerals package is run on a forage sample, you will receive values for crude protein, calculated energy values based on acid detergent fiber, macro minerals: calcium, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, sodium and sulfur, and micro minerals: copper, zinc, manganese and iron. Additional testing is recommended when selenium values are desired.

Another part of the mineral puzzle is the levels in the drinking water source. A Livestock Water Suitability test provides values for several important minerals that are graphed for ease of interpretation. High mineral levels in the water adds to overall mineral consumption. Excess supply of certain minerals has reduced pregnancy rates and herd performance in some studies.

Cattle can excrete some mineral excess in urine and feces, however, with other minerals, excretion is limited which can lead to accumulation of levels detrimental to performance, toxicity and sometimes death. Because mineral nutrition has been touted as the magic bullet for reproductive success in a beef operation, there has been a rise of problems with excess mineral levels. In this case, there is such a thing as “too much of a good thing.”

The more we try to increase efficiency in cattle production, the more imperative it is to meet nutritional needs. Wise decisions can be made with actual forage and water test values allowing you to choose a mineral supplement that meets the nutritional requirements of your cattle.

Robin Cox is a key feed accounts specialist at Servi-Tech. 

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