Why Do You Need Essential Minerals and Nutrient for Beef Production?
We all know that if we balance the diet of our cattle we can increase the production but does anyone know what each mineral does and why we need to supplement our cattle? I have listed most of the essential minerals below and what role they play to maximize the production of your cattle. Remember most of these ingredients can be found in green grass or most good supplements.
Water is often forgotten or taken for granted but it normally makes up at least 50% of an animal’s body weight. A cow will drink between 40 to 120 litres of water per day depending on temperature, humidity and feed stuff available for the animal to eat each day. Water quality is important as a dehydrated animal will lose its appetite.
Cows need energy to produce milk, cycle and develop fetus from pregnancy, growing cattle need energy to grow and build muscle. Excess energy is stored as fat and then reused when required. Reproduction is the last thing a cow uses it’s available energy for and this is why it can be difficult to get cows to cycle and fall pregnant during the dry season.
Protein is normally the second most limiting nutrient, cattle need the feed source to be 9% to12% protein. Daily feed intake and digestion decrease when animal is receiving insufficient protein. During the dry season the animals ability to digest dry forage is already challenged, with insufficient protein the digestion rate of fibre slows even more and this results in the animal losing more bodyweight.
In northern Australia phosphorus is the most important mineral requiring supplementation. It is key to bone and tissue / muscle development, energy utilization and milk production. Phosphorus is also known as the fertility mineral and will effect pregnancy rates, calf weaning weights and growth rates of growing animals. A cows highest requirement of phosphorus is around calving time.
Calcium is needed for bone growth and milk production, remember cows need calcium for the bone development of the fetus as well. While dairy and feedlot cattle need to be supplement calcium due there higher requirement or lack of forage in the diet. Most beef cattle receive sufficient calcium from the forage / grass they consume. Calcium interacts with phosphorus and vitamin D. Excess calcium can reduce the absorption of magnesium, iron, manganese, phosphorus, zinc and iodine.
Cattle with insufficient selenium can suffer from lower fertility as selenium deficiency can effect abortions, premature or weak claves and a increase in retained placentas. Selenium is very important for the enzyme system and interacts with Vitamin E. The dose of selenium supplemented to cattle is very important as is can also be very toxic to cattle, if in excess.
Copper is required for the development of connective tissue, red blood cells and enzymes and has an effect on fertility and deficiency can delay puberty. A bulls libido and semen quality will be affected when they have insufficient copper in their diet. Insufficient molybdenum in the diet of cattle can reduce the availability of the copper.
Zinc deficient cows may have lower conception rates, calves grow slower with delayed puberty and bulls suffer from reduced testicular development which fertility effects overall. Zinc deficiency also reduces the utilization of Vitamin A but excess calcium and phosphorus in the diet can reduce the absorption of the zinc.
Manganese is essential for energy utilization and enzyme activation and is very important to the fertility of cattle. Cattle with deficient manganese will not cycle, have lower conception rates, higher abortion rates and calves have lower birth weights, with some calves suffering from twisted or deformed legs.
Cattle need iodine for the thyroid gland to produce hormones, which have an effect on the animal’s metabolic rate. Iodine deficiency has an indirect effect on growth rates, milk production, feed consumption, delayed puberty, poor conception rates, higher abortions rates or increase still born calves.
Cobalt is essential for production of Vitamin B12 and energy utilization. Cattle deficient with cobalt have a reduced appetite and normally have a poorer body condition.
Sodium / Salt
Sodium regulates the animal’s body fluids keeping the animal hydrated. Sodium also effects the absorption of sugar and protein in the digestive tract.
Vitamin’s are very important to the development and health and tissue’s in cattle. Generally cattle grazing green forage in sunlight receive sufficient vitamins.
Vitamin A is very important to pregnant cows and body tissue but readily found in green grass.
Vitamin D is sourced from sun and green grass and is not a problem in northern Australia.
Vitamin E works with Selenium to prevent damage to body tissue and in cows is important for reproduction.
Cattle grazing on grass in Australia rarely show signs of vitamin deficiency however feedlot or intensive animals should be supplemented with vitamins. When supplementing with vitamins you need to be careful with how you use them as they can break down quickly in sunlight, thus losing their potency.