|Reasons to use a complete mineral over dicalcium phosphate/trace mineral salt|
by Jimmy Hughes
With new research becoming available each year, cattle producers have the ability to select products that will provide needed nutrients to cattle to maximize their genetic potential. One such area that is gaining a lot of research attention is in the area of mineral/vitamin mixes.
In the past, I have provided you information concerning mineral and vitamin functions, deficiencies, and requirements for cattle. While I hope that this information has been valuable, I am still visiting with farmers who are feeding a mixture of dicalcium phosphate and trace mineral salt as their mineral /vitamin program.
As stated in the past, minerals and vitamins play a key role in cattle nutrition. These elements make up 3% to 5% of animal body dry weight and make up one group of essential nutrients required by the animal.
Minerals are classified as either macro or microminerals based upon the level in the animals body and the amounts in the diet of the animals. Macrominerals are calcium, phosphorus, sodium, chlorine, magnesium, potassium, and sulfur. These 7 minerals play a key role in bone and teeth formation, growth, immunity, reproduction, body functions, protein synthesis, and prevention of nutritional disorders such as milk fever, and grass tetney. Iron, copper, zinc, manganese, cobalt, iodine, selenium, molybdenum, and fluorine are classified as microminerals and play a key role in immunity, growth, reproduction, hair and coat, central nervous system development, and appetite.
Vitamins are also a major player in the efficiency of your cowherd. Vitamin A, D, and E are most looked at in the diets of cattle and are required for tissue maintenance, growth, immunity, reproduction, and nutrient absorption.
As you can see, minerals and vitamins play a key role in the proficiency of your herd and should be provided on a daily basis. With this in mind, lets look at a 50%/50% mixture of dicalcium phosphate and trace mineral salt. This mixture, while an improvement over trace mineral or plain salt will not meet all of the daily needs of your cattle. This mixture will provide you a mix that is 11% calcium, 9% phosphorus, 29% chlorine, 18% sodium and 5000 ppm of iron. At these levels, normal consumption of this mineral mix will meet the daily requirements for these minerals. This mix will not meet the daily requirement for magnesium, potassium, sulfur, cobalt, copper, iodine, manganese, selenium, or vitamins A, D, and E.
The next consideration is what forages will provide that the cattle are consuming. The forage will mimic soil conditions for the area where you are living. Also, fertilization will play a large part on the composition of the forage you have available to your herd.
What this means is that you could possibly meet part of the additional requirements not found in the dicalcium phosphate/trace mineral salt mix. What this also means is that you will not meet the needs of your cattle if the soil conditions are deficient in those elements. Alabama soils are deficient in copper and selenium and you will not get these two minerals from the mineral mix. Copper is very important in calf immunity while selenium is very important in cow reproductive health and efficiency. You will also be deficient in vitamins as well. These deficiencies will affect immunity, reproduction, and development.
The next consideration before going to a complete mineral will be cost differences of this mineral mix compared to a complete mineral. The dicalcium phosphate/trace mineral salt mix will cost you around $8.00 a bag. A complete mineral will cost you around $10.00 a bag.
Are the advantages worth a cost difference of $2.00 a bag? While $2.00 a bag may seem like a lot, if you break it down to a cost per head per day basis, it will only cost you less than 2 cents per head per day to provide a complete mineral. That’s less than $7.00 per cow per year extra to provide all the needed minerals and vitamins for reproductive and immunity efficiency in the form to increase absorption and utilization. A 50 cowherd would only need to have one more cow bred or one less sick cow/calf to pay for the extra cost of the complete mineral. While it is easy to see that a mixture of dicalcium phosphate and trace mineral salt offers advantages over a plain salt diet, it is also very easy to see that a complete mineral offers distinct advantages over this mix.
Jimmy Hughes is AFC’s animal nutritionist.