Mineral balance important to cow performance

Mar 13, 2009
by WLJ
Mineral balance important to cow performance

Feeding of corn co-products like distillers grains and corn gluten has changed the mineral balance in winter cattle diets, said Dennis Bauer, University of Nebraska Extension educator.

Those products are really high in phosphorus, Bauer said. When ranchers begin feeding 2 to 3 pounds of these co-products, they might be able to discontinue phosphorus supplementation completely and just feed salt with a little bit of copper and zinc. To thrive, cattle need several minerals in their diets, especially during winter when feed sources aren’t quite as nutritious, Bauer said. Deficiencies of phosphorus, copper and zinc are of primary concern, he said, as is the ratio between phosphorus and calcium. Without these minerals and several others, cattle don’t perform as well as producers might expect.

More severe shortages or imbalances of these minerals can disrupt reproductive health, resulting in a few more open cows, Bauer said. During a three-year study conducted between 2001 and 2003, University of Nebraska-Lincoln researchers tested about 1,000 samples of winter forages, including a lot of meadow hay. For the most part, meadow hay proved to be a good source of calcium, although it was a bit deficient in phosphorus, copper and zinc. Mineral balance in a cow’s winter ration can make the difference between good and substandard performance.

University of Nebraska Extension