Meeting the Summer Mineral Needs of Cattle

July 2008
Bridget Carlisle - Polk County Extension, Livestock Agent II

As with everything else, the cost of mineral supplements is on the rise. Key ingredients such as phosphorous are rapidly escalating in price. Now is a good time for producers to look at their mineral supplementation program and ensure that it is meeting their cow-herd needs based on the macro and trace minerals available in their forages. A majority of a cow's nutrient requirements are in protein and energy. However, attention must be paid to the nutrients that are needed in lesser quantities-macro and trace minerals.

Minerals have an important role in fetal development, colostral quality, newborn calf vigor, immune function in cattle of all ages and rebreeding of the cow1. Cutting corners on mineral supplementation may result in greater costs due to loss of productivity in the cow herd. Producers are encouraged to determine their supplementation program based on the production cycle of the cows and the nutrient requirements associated with those cycles. Through forage testing, ranchers can determine the mineral availability in their summer pastures. Forage nutrient availability in summer months differs from that in winter months. Once deficiencies are identified, producers can look at the mineral choices available. Choosing a mineral based on the deficient minerals, will help the rancher determine which mineral supplement will work efficiently and effectively on his operation. Therefore, precious dollars are not spent on mineral supplements that are not necessary.

During winter months, minerals can be added to protein and/or energy supplements to ensure adequate consumption. However, during the summer months when forages are typically meeting the protein and energy requirements of the herd, a free choice mineral must be offered. Complete minerals can be purchased in the form of a block, but consumption is often inadequate.2 Use of salt blocks (white or yellow) will not adequately meet the herd's needs. However, use of a quality, palatable, free-choice mineral is often an efficient, cost-effective means of meeting the cow's nutritional requirements.

Selecting a quality mineral product that matches your herd's nutritional requirements and your pasture nutrient availability will save dollars in the long run.


  • Herd, Dennis B. "Fine Tuning Mineral Management for Beef Cattle." The Cattleman. Aug. 06.
  • Rossi, Johnny. Mineral Supplements for Beef Cattle. UGA Ext. Bull 895. Dec. 06.

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