Keep Mineral Nutrition in Mind this Grazing Season

Mineral balance is an essential aspect to any farm or ranch. Producers sending cow-calf pairs out to pasture may be lacking some of the key nutrients needed for optimal cattle production. 

Grass feeding during the summer months, cuts back on costs but where producers should be focusing their energy is mineral. Green grass lacks key nutrients that are needed for bone and tissue development, reproduction, energy utilization and other important functions of the body. 

According to Janna Block, North Dakota State University Extension livestock specialist, it pays to investigate what nutrients your herd is lacking. According to Janna Block, North Dakota State University Extension livestock specialist it pays to investigate what nutrients your herd is lacking.“Forages are typically the primary mineral source for grazing livestock,” says Block. “However, forages often miss the mark in meeting all mineral requirements, even during peak forage growth, when protein and energy content are high. Commercial mineral supplements are commonly provided to make up deficiencies; however, finding the right product for a given situation is not an easy task.” 

Producers can look for a couple of signs to indicate a mineral deficiency in the herd. Eating dirt, bones  could be signs of pica, a sulfur deficiency. Cattle not shedding out at appropriate times or a reddish or silver hair tint can are signs of a copper deficiency  Other indications include, slow cattle growth and feed intake. 

Micro- and macro- nutrients are required in a cattle diet. Macro minerals are to be more potent in the diet and include calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium and sulfur. Micro minerals are needed in smaller amounts and include, cobalt, copper, iodine, iron, manganese, molybdenum, selenium and zinc. 

Every operation is different in respect to the herd and land grazed. Producers could have pasture land far beyond a 20 mile radius. Those two pastures will not have the same grass quality or water quality for that matter.

The best way to understand what quality your herd is getting is taking forage and water samples. Block encourages sample testing annually by taking samples of forage next to where cattle have already grazed.