Well-formulated cattle mineral is part of a sound nutritional foundation that is often equated to how many cows and replacement heifers are going to show strong heats, accept fertile bulls, and conceive with next years’ revenue. There is no other part of the breeding beef diet that is fed in such small amounts, yet can have such a tremendous impact on the successful of this year’s breeding season. If you are going to turn out bulls into your cowherd soon, now is a good time to insure that all your breeding animals are on a good cattle mineral program.
It’s never too late to review your current herd’s mineral situation and decide whether to keep it as mineral sits in the feeders or upgrade it to a better one. Granted, there are many factors that go into the formula of a good cattle breeder mineral and at times, it does seem confusing. However, one of the “tell-tale” signs that your current beef mineral could be inadequate to support the respective nutrients of breeding cattle may start with its purchase price.
Cattle breeder mineral tend to be one of the highest priced beef minerals at your local feed store. They are often contain no salt (or less than 10 per cent salt, added for palability reasons) and are formulated with higher levels of macro-, trace-minerals and vitamins A, D, and E; that come from respective ingredient sources that have better than average absorptive and metabolizable properties for cattle.
For example, middle-of-road “no salt” 12 per cent Ca: 12 per cent P beef mineral formulated with a standard level of trace minerals and vitamins might cost about $30 to $35 per 25-kg bag. By comparison, a fortified beef breeder mineral that contains significantly higher levels of trace-minerals in “chelated” form”, and a good dose of vitamin E (a costly vitamin) can cost upward to $50 per 25-kg bag.
Let any uneasy feelings of stick-shock after purchasing a good cattle breeder mineral pass.
Paying a $15 per 25-kg bag premium above a standard mineral program costs only about $4 more per animal (a total cost of $12.60 per cow and per bull), when a short-term mineral plan is implemented for 30 days prior and another 60 days during the entire breeding season. Feed consumption should be targeted for 70 grams (2.5 oz) per animal. Any cattle mineral
upgrades to your breeding program should not be viewed as an added cost to your operation, but as a wise investment.
Regardless of how much you finally pay for cattle mineral, it should be remembered that the main objective for choosing a good cattle breeder mineral program is to meet individual mineral requirements of your breeding herd for good overall reproduction. Years of research has proven that five minerals in particular; phosphorus, copper, zinc, manganese, and selenium play a pivotal role in good beef herd fertility. Their dietary level and availability to the animal should be reviewed in your current or upgraded mineral program.
Aside from its tight association with calcium in bones, on its own merit, a breeder macro-mineral like phosphorus performs other major roles such as cellular energy metabolism (helps extract and metabolize energy from feed). Those breeding cattle that do not consume enough dietary phosphorus (about 25 grams) each day or consume it in the wrong ratio with calcium will not utilize enough dietary energy properly which is central to good breeding performance.
Likewise, copper trace-mineral levels are commonly increased in a commercial beef mineral, specifically fed to cattle during the breeding season. University and extension research has consistently demonstrated that a lack of available copper in the diet leads to poor cattle fertility. Inadequate dietary copper levels or antagonistic elements that bind available copper have been independently blamed for a reduction in first-service conception rates, embryonic survival and lower overall conception rates.
Not to be overshadowed by the importance of copper, zinc is present in over 300 enzyme systems that affect just about every reproductive process in beef cows, from estrus to calving. A lack of dietary zinc has been proven to be responsible for abnormal fetal development, increased calving difficulties and pre-and post-calving sickness. As a footnote, zinc plays an important role in the development and maturation of sperm in the bulls’ testes.
Similarly, “silent heats,” lower conception rates and higher than normal abortion rates are often expected symptoms when inadequate manganese levels are fed. Like copper and zinc, the actual mechanisms on how manganese promotes reproductive performance are not clearly defined, but its role in carbohydrate (energy metabolism) or anti-oxidant enzyme activities may be involved.
No cattle breeder mineral would be complete, if it did not contain adequate levels of added selenium to provide the government regulated level of three mg/hd/d. In association with vitamin E, selenium is often characterized for its role as an enzyme activator for gluthionine peroxidase, whose main function is to destroy oxidizing chemicals produced in the body that harm cellular membranes. It is by this improvement of antioxidant status in breeding cattle that researchers believe selenium is essential for good reproduction.
A selenium deficiency in beef cows leads to an increased incidence of retained placentas, cystic ovaries and uterine infections, early fetal abortions, and weak or stillborn calves. Se-related infertility also affects the normal estrus cycles, ovulation, embryo fertilization and development. New research has also shown that selenium is required in the mechanics of good sperm mobility and may play a role in the penetration of the ovum (egg) wall by the sperm during fertilization.
Phosphorus and the above mentioned trace minerals are traditionally formulated into standard cattle minerals by adding inorganic salts. Doubts have arisen about the latter trace minerals’ varying bio-availability coming only from rock sources and therefore whether both breeding cows and bulls always meet their respective mineral requirements. Such special concerns recommend that organic forms of copper, zinc, manganese and selenium should be fed to cattle, shortly after calving and throughout the breeding season.
Chelated minerals are produced by a series of special chemical processes that binds trace mineral atoms to an amino acid or peptide organic structure (note: organic Se is produced by feeding sodium selenite to specialized yeast species). When they are consumed by breeding cattle, chelated minerals exhibit their superior absorptive/retention properties and seem to directly target important reproductive tissues.
As a result, numerous research projects demonstrate that cows supplemented with chelated forms of Cu, Mn, Zn and Seleno-yeast in their diets tend to have higher ovarian activity after calving, lower embryonic mortality, and a shortened calving to conception interval. Many organic mineral-fed breeding cattle display a stronger immune system to protect them against disease, which is also advantageous during a stressful breeding season.
It’s these benefits of feeding organic minerals to breeding cattle that should be recognized when making your final choice on a good breeding mineral. Interestingly, knowing such information does not always make one’s final choice any easier.
Here are some helpful hints in your investigation for a good cattle breeder mineral: No salt or low salt.
Calcium and phosphorus should compliment your forage levels.
Added magnesium at four to eight percent should be added for grass tetany situations.
Contain adequate levels of essential trace minerals (consult your nutritionist).
1/3 to 1/2 of the zinc, copper, and manganese should be in chelated form (personal preference).
Contain organic seleno-yeast (organic selenium).
HighlevelsofvitaminsA, Dand E (consult your nutritionist).
Purchasing a good breeder cattle mineral is a matter of finding one that meets the increased mineral and vitamin requirements of the your breeding herd to promote optimum reproduction. A suitable breeding mineral will cost significantly more than your standard mineral choices, but any price difference should be ideally returned with more cows pregnant with next years’ calf crop.
Peter Vitti is an independent livestock nutritionist and consultant based in Winnipeg. To reach him call 204-254-7497 or by e-mail at [email protected]