Beef cattle require a diet rich in minerals for optimum health and growth. Unfortunately, the soil conditions may not provide the proper nutrients if you rely on forage and feed alone. You can provide a free-choice mineral supplement to cows in the field, or you can add it directly to their feed to ensure they get proper nutrition for development and reproduction.
Mineral supplements are the most expensive of all the nutrient supplements. It is also fed in the smallest quantities. Pound for pound, they may very well have the greatest impact on cow performance. This makes the use of a good quality, palatable, loose mineral product an effective, cost-efficient means of delivering adequate vitamin and mineral supplementation to your cattle. Intake is often targeted at two to four ounces per head daily.
The best method for ensuring the proper dose of supplement is top dressing. After preparing the feed in troughs, sprinkle the supplement over the top as if you are salting food. This ensures that cattle take in a sufficient amount of the supplement as they eat.
Feeding free choice (allowing cattle to feed at will) is less time-consuming for the rancher. If you find the cattle are consuming more than 4 oz of mineral daily, this indicates a craving for salt. Satisfy their need by putting stock salt near the mineral. This will save the mineral for more of the herd.
Minerals are critical to development, such as during the spring, when natural magnesium deficiencies in forage can lead to dangerous health conditions like grass tetany. This is especially critical for spring calving herds, but can also occur in fall and winter.