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Mineral content an important part of feed for cattle

Feed is an important part of raising cattle, and making sure you know what's going into that feed can help out with health.

While the uninitiated might think that it's as simple as getting straw and hay to cattle, the balance of what's in that meal can be very important.

When it comes to feeding, mineral content is an aspect that ranchers are encouraged to watch out for, as specific minerals have effects that can be the difference between a healthy and unhealthy herd.

Livestock and Feed Extension specialist Travis Peardon explains that those minerals affect a wide variety of processes in cattle's bodies.

"Having a strong mineral program is really important for your cow herd, so you know it has a positive effect on feed efficiency, it has an effect on growth, immune function, and of course most importantly fertility so those are the biggest reasons we want to have a mineral program for our cows.

That includes macrominerals, with the main focus for specialists like Peardon being calcium and phosphorus.

Trace minerals are also important for diets, with a wide spread of needed nutrients.

"When we talk about trace minerals," said Peardon, "Probably one of the ones that we talk about the most is copper because it has such a huge effect on fertility. We also need to look at iron, selenium, cobalt, iodine, manganese, and zinc. All these minerals kind of work together to maintain a healthy animal."

Every diet is different, so how many minerals need to be added can change depending on the feed.

"The first thing we need to figure out is what type of mineral each producer should be feeding and that's going to vary with what your feedstocks are. So if you have a legume diet," said Peardon, "Legumes are high in calcium so you're going to be able to go with one-to-one calcium to phosphorous ratio in the mineral.

"If you're feeding grass-based hay or some green feed or straw-based diets you're going to want a higher amount of calcium. That's where you're going to want to use a 2:1  calcium to phosphorous ratio, or even a 4:1."

Peardon recommends that people consult with a professional to find out the best options for their herd.

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