The Cheapest Mineral Isn't

The major nutritional requirements are: water, energy, protein, minerals and vitamins.

December 13, 2010The major nutritional requirements are: water, energy, protein, minerals, and vitamins. In many cases, beef producers do a good job of providing adequate water, energy and protein. However, many beef producers buy "cheap" minerals, ignoring the fact that the availability of the minerals in the oxide form in many of these mixes are only 10% to 20% as absorbable by the animal as the sulfate, chloride, or organic or chelated, forms (when minerals are metals bound to an organic compound such as an amino acid such as in zinc methionine or organic selenium in selenomethionine) in more expensive mineral mixes. The advantage of more available forms of minerals are seen when stress increases.

Consider the fact that weather can be a stress, whether it's extreme heat or cold, and that working cattle at breeding, vaccination, and weaning can be stressors. So, why do so many producers buy minerals that don't provide the best nutrition to the animal when they need it most, and buy the cheapest mineral instead? In many cases, it's because we think in terms of tons rather than days, and a ton of mineral seems expensive relative to a ton of hay, but not when you consider that a ton of mineral with an anticipated intake of 4 oz/day will provide feed for 8,000 animal days.

I can't imagine a beef producer going to their truck dealership and asking for the truck with the least power when it's under a load, or asking for the truck with the weakest transmission, but we do this same thing when we buy minerals with the poorest absorption during times of stress, then we buy additional hay, or grain, or treat sick newborn calves, or blame the bull when cows don't breed in a timely manner.

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