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Publication #AN348

Methods of Trace Mineral Supplementation1

Matt Hersom and Todd Thrift2

Introduction

Trace mineral supplementation is an integral component of the total diet for beef cattle. Trace minerals function in many of the metabolic processes associated with animal growth, health, and reproduction. It is essential that cattle have access to trace minerals in their diet. However, the forage cattle consume as the bulk of their diet is often deficient in trace mineral concentrations. Therefore, feed needs to be supplemented with trace minerals on a regular basis. Cattle producers can choose from a number of different methods to provide supplemental trace minerals to cattle. Each method has advantages and disadvantages. The suitability of each method depends on the needs of the animal, the mineral concentrations of the feedstuffs consumed by the cattle, and the ability to provide trace mineral supplementation. Cattle producers should evaluate the methods against management activities to determine the optimal trace mineral delivery strategy. Below are several common ways to provide trace mineral supplements as well as their advantages and disadvantages.

Trace Mineral Supplementation Options

Table 1. 

Free choice or fortifying other feedstuff with trace minerals.

Advantages

Disadvantages

Can supply via free-choice loose mineral

Animals can over- or under-consume free-choice mineral

Can supply via manufactured supplement

Spoilage, shrink, weathering losses

Can incorporate into other feedstuffs or with other additives

Producers need to select the appropriate formulation

Flexibility in formulation to fulfill specific needs

Ongoing expense

“Everyday” consumption opportunity

Animal has to consume the product

Can include all macro and micro minerals

 

Can incorporate a variable amount of salt in supplement

 

Can be used to move/distribute animals

 

Can be used to supply other nutrients

 

Provides minerals for rumen microbe metabolism

 

Figure 1. 

Loose trace mineral supplement and manufactured feed with trace minerals incorporated.


Credit:

Matt Hersom, UF/IFAS


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Table 2. 

Injectable sources.

Advantages

Disadvantages

Guaranteed delivery of defined amount of certain trace mineral

Sources do not feed rumen microbes

Every animal receives defined amount of supplied trace mineral

Producers need to follow Beef Quality Assurance procedures for injections

Option when delivering a free-choice or feed-based mineral supplement is not possible

Bolus supply of certain trace minerals results in an immediate peak in mineral concentration with declining concentration over time

Immediate effort to correct deficiencies

Potential for toxicity if paired with other sources

One-time cost

Require repeated injection if only source of supplemental trace minerals

Easy to supply certain trace minerals to animal

Have to handle animal to provide trace minerals

 

No formulation flexibility

 

Possible injection site issues

 

Provide only 1 to 4 specific micro minerals (Zn, Mn, Se, Cu), no macro minerals

 

Require a veterinarian’s prescription

Figure 2. 

Injectable trace mineral solution in a syringe, dose for a 1,200 lb mature cow.


Credit:

Matt Hersom, UF/IFAS


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Table 3. 

Trace mineral block.

Advantages

Disadvantages

Provides salt

Not a viable source of any trace minerals, 97 to 99% salt

Can be used to move/distribute animals

Use of the block can be inconsistent

Inexpensive

Animals can over- or under-consume

 

Animal has to consume the product

 

Ongoing expense

Figure 3. 

Trace mineralized salt block.


Credit:

Matt Hersom, UF/IFAS


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Table 4. 

Yellow or blue salt block.

Advantages

Disadvantages

Provides salt

Not a viable source of trace mineral, 97 to 99% salt

Can be used to move/distribute animals

Use of the block can be inconsistent

Inexpensive

Animals can over- or under-consume

 

Provides only single element (sulfur or cobalt)

 

Animal has to consume the product

 

Ongoing expense

Figure 4. 

Blue cobalt block.


Credit:

Matt Hersom, UF/IFAS


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Table 5. 

Cafeteria style.

Advantages

Disadvantages

Can provide salt

Individual minerals are not palatable

Can be used to move/distribute animals

Have to manage offering multiple individual minerals

 

Poor consistency of consumption

 

Animals can over- or under-consume

 

Animal has to consume the product

 

Requires numerous inventories of mineral products

 

Cattle do not know which minerals they need

 

Ongoing expense

Issues can arise when producers pair several of the trace mineral supplement options together (e.g., free-choice mineral and salt block, or a free-choice mineral and injectable). Under consumption of the free-choice mineral is common when a salt, yellow, or blue block is offered alongside the free-choice trace mineral supplement. Cattle will consume the block to satisfy their salt requirement, but may under-consume the formulated mineral supplement. In this scenario, insufficient mineral consumption can lead to decreased trace mineral status in the animal. Some producers may appreciate the cost savings afforded by replacing mineral consumption with salt block consumption, but they may suffer production losses. Conversely, when a free-choice trace mineral or fortified feed supplement is paired with injectable mineral treatment, the potential for toxicity or antagonisms increases. Consistent free-choice mineral consumption can result in an adequate mineral status in cattle, but the bolus application of injectable mineral can produce detrimental outcomes. Exercise caution when combining multiple trace mineral supplementation options. Remember to include all feed resources and water when determining an animal’s total macro and trace mineral consumption.

Conclusion

Grazed and conserved forages in Florida are generally deficient in many of the trace minerals that are important to beef cattle nutrition. Providing a consistent supply of trace minerals for the beef cow herd is a good management practice. Beef cattle producers should evaluate the trace mineral supplementation options for their herds. Each method has defined advantages and disadvantages. Understanding the appropriate application of trace mineral supplement methods is important to the long-term performance, health, and reproductive management of the beef herd.

Footnotes

1.

This document is AN348, one of a series of the Department of Animal Sciences, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date October 2018. Visit the EDIS website at https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu for the currently supported version of this publication.

2.

Matt Hersom, associate professor; and Todd Thrift, associate professor, Department of Animal Sciences; UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.

The use of trade names in this publication is solely for the purpose of providing specific information. UF/IFAS does not guarantee or warranty the products named, and references to them in this publication do not signify our approval to the exclusion of other products of suitable composition.


The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.