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Homemade Mineral Mixes For Beef Cattle

Livestock Update, April 1995

Mark Wahlberg, Animal & Poultry Sciences, Virginia Tech

Mineral nutrition of beef cattle is a very important part of a total nutrition program. For most cattle the base ration will be pasture or hay. Although these forages provide some minerals, often certain mineral elements will be deficient in the forage. Therefore, these minerals need to be provided as a supplement. The recommended method of delivering minerals is in a loose form in a covered feeder. This is preferred over mineral blocks, because cattle can more easily consume minerals that are loose (granular).

A complete mineral will provide a source of salt, calcium, phosphorous, and various trace elements. Trace mineral salt is not a complete mineral. Additional important elements under certain situations are magnesium and selenium.

Minerals for beef cows should be complete mineral mixes. Reproduction and milk production require considerable levels of several minerals. Although complete minerals can be bought from feed suppliers, homemade mixes can be put together for substantially lower cost, and provide about the same mineral nutrition. As we move into the spring months, grass tetany is a severe risk, so minerals for cows at this time should contain high levels of Magnesium to prevent this problem. Two mixtures of minerals for beef cows are:

High MagnesiumNo Added Magnesium
Trace Mineral Salt22.5504550
Dicalcium Phosphate22.5504550
Selenium-6001022.210 11
Magnesium Oxide22.550--
Dry Molasses or
Ground Grain

Note Well:
Magnesium Oxide should be granular, not powder
Selenium-600 contains 600 parts per million (.06%) Selenium
These mixtures contain 60 ppm of Selenium (.006%)
Pounds are shown as full sacks of ingredient where appropriate
These mixtures should be thoroughly blended to insure uniformity

Minerals for stocker cattle can be much more simplified than those for cows. In at least some studies, stockers gained just as well with just free-choice salt as they did with a complete mineral. Stockers probably don't need Magnesium under Virginia conditions. They probably do require Selenium, however. Thus, the minimum free-choice mineral for stockers should be a tracemineral salt that contains at least 60 ppm Selenium. If either Calcium or Phosphorous is likely to be limiting, such as when grazing old, mature forage, then the cow mineral in the above table with no added Magnesium would be appropriate.

Producers often ask about vitamins in mineral mixes. When cattle are consuming green forage as either pasture or hay there is no need for supplemental vitamins. Only when cattle consume mature, bleached, severely rain-damaged, or other types of low-quality forages are supplemental Vitamins A, D, or E necessary

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