Importance of supplementing trace minerals in beef cattle nutrition

There are some beef producers with the misconception that forages provide everything their animals need and will only supplement salt, if that.

4 Min Read

While there are many beef producers that realize the value of incorporating performance trace minerals in their beef nutrition and feeding program year-round, some producers still leave these essential nutrients out during certain times of year due to logistical challenges. There are also some beef producers with the misperception that forages provide everything their animals need and will only supplement salt, if that. 

The fact remains, however, that for beef cattle to truly thrive and reach their full potential, they should receive optimal trace mineral nutrition throughout every production stage. Beef cattle encounter various health issues throughout the course of their lives. 

Why producers aren’t supplementing performance trace minerals year-round

For some beef producers, there are logistical challenges that lead to an absence of performance trace minerals in their beef nutrition and feeding program year-round, including challenges due to the land area that cattle are covering. This often happens during the summer months when cattle are grazing extensive range which can make supplementation difficult, but not impossible. 

During the busier times of year, such as when producers on a beef operation are baling hay, supplementing trace minerals is simply forgotten, even though cattle and supplement feeders are accessible. While it may seem simple, the easiest solution for this is to make sure the responsibility for supplementing trace minerals is assigned to a single person on the operation. This can help avoid miscommunication while feeders sit empty in the pasture and trace minerals are available in the shed or are a phone call away.

Calves are dependent on the trace minerals they get through gestation. Studies show an increase in the number of calves that are born with challenges, such as impaired or malformed skeletal structure when born from cows who were not supplemented with trace minerals, such as manganese, during gestation. 

Research shows that when cows are not supplemented with optimal trace minerals, their colostrum quality is reduced. This is a huge issue because colostrum is the only source of passive immunity a calf has early in its life. 

Some producers consider a performance trace mineral, like Zinpro Performance Minerals® to be a reproduction mineral and will only supplement it with cows that are about to enter the breeding season, then pull it from their nutrition after they are confirmed pregnant. Often, early-to-mid gestation is the most forgotten phase. 

Performance trace minerals are critical in every production stage

Supplementing performance trace minerals in a beef nutrition program is important for every production stage, including before birth. Improving a calf’s ability to mount a robust response to an immune challenge allows for more nutrients and energy to be utilized for growth, production and reproduction. 

Research at Oregon State University showed that supplementing gestating beef cow diets with Availa®4 in the last trimester before calving helps provide the calf with essential trace minerals before it’s born. This is especially important because milk and colostrum are inadequate sources of trace minerals for nursing calves. 

The study showed a 53-pound increase in weaning weights of calves from beef cows supplemented with Availa-4 in the last trimester.


In addition, calves fed Availa-4 during a 28-day receiving period had 45 percent reduction in morbidity and a 9 to 13 percent increase in average daily gain. Additionally, feeding Availa-4 in the starter period and Availa®Zn in the finishing period improves the average daily gain in the feedlot by 6 percent and improves feed conversion by 4 percent. Feeding performance trace minerals has also been shown to help reduce the incidence of foot rot by 30 to 57 percent. 


Studies also show that feeding performance trace minerals has a positive impact on beef cattle reproduction. Supplementing bull diets with Availa-4 resulted in semen that was more motile, and supplementing cow diets resulted in conception rate improvements of more than 14 percent. 


Education is key for performance trace mineral nutrition

Education is key to raising awareness about the importance of feeding performance trace minerals to help improve beef nutrition year-round and in every stage of production. 

A 53-pound increase in weaning weight, a 45 percent reduction in morbidity, a 6 percent increase in feedlot average daily gain and a 14 percent boost in conception rates all have a positive impact on your beef operation’s bottom line. Zinpro Performance Minerals provide a solid return on investment. Making an investment in year-round supplementation of performance trace minerals can help boost annual income for beef producers. 

Learn more about the importance of supplementing beef cattle nutrition with Zinpro Performance Minerals®: Read about Zinpro Lifetime Performance® for beef.

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