Archive for April, 2017

Make the Most of Cattle Minerals This Year

Wednesday, April 19th, 2017

Cattle nutrient requirements can vary by season and stage of production – and now is a great time to evaluate your cattle mineral program and map out a plan to maximize impact.

While minerals are a relatively small portion of the diet, they control many vital functions in cattle and impact everything from cattle reproductive and nervous systems, to feed efficiency and overall herd health. That’s why it’s so important to make sure the mineral needs of your cattle are being met year-round.

Producers should consider these three steps to develop a solid mineral strategy:Cattle Minerals

1. Analyze annual cattle mineral needs
Mineral needs throughout the year can be impacted by a variety of factors, including cattle production stage and ration nutrient composition. Start your plan by considering how these factors change in your herd during the year.

Production stages such as gestation, calving, weaning and breeding are especially important. During gestation and calving it’s critical to have a good mineral to get cattle through that stress period. Cows that are mineral deficient can create a calf that is deficient at birth, which can result in ‘weak calf syndrome,’ loss of vigor or scours.

At weaning, calves need an onboard reserve of minerals in their system as stress is often elevated and feed consumption may decrease temporarily. Bulls have special needs during breeding season – zinc, manganese and Vitamin E help to ensure sperm quality and vitality.

Producers should also consider the overall nutrient composition and seasonality of their feedstuffs. For instance, areas with high growth, cool season grasses commonly have a need for higher magnesium in the spring to prevent milk fever or grass tetany.

2. Choose an optimal mineral source
Don’t let the mineral label completely drive your decision making. More is not necessarily better, and it’s important to identify the source of the mineral, not just the concentration.

Producers should work with a nutrition consultant or Extension personnel to identify the levels of macro and micro nutrients needed in their herd and compare those nutrients to the amounts available in their rations or forage. Mineral product labels will list concentrations of each nutrient, so calculate anticipated intake and choose a mineral that sufficiently supplies lacking nutrients.

Not all sources of minerals are utilized equally. Oxides are virtually unavailable to the animal – forms like chlorides and sulfates are better, and organics or chelates are usually the best. Most oxide formulations are less expensive for manufacturers to include in a product, but they simply aren’t going to have the impact.

Finally, consider expected seasonality when choosing a mineral source. During snowy or rainy seasons, water-resistant and weatherized products can provide protection from mineral caking or from wind blowing it away.

3. Make the most of mineral consumption
While planning and choosing a quality mineral source are key, it takes proper management to have an effective mineral program.

First and foremost, producers should be tracking mineral consumption to make sure the cattle are getting the minerals that have been put out. To calculate consumption, producers should follow this simple formula:

(Pounds of mineral distributed ÷ Number of cows) / Number of days mineral was available
Producers can encourage or discourage consumption by placing mineral feeders near or away from water sources, and in areas with ample room for access and rotation.

Cows can’t tell if they do or don’t need mineral, but they do seek out phosphorus and salt, which can offer management tactics. Salt can be used as a limiting factor, or if the cows are salt deficient, as a driver of intake. Overconsumption of mineral should be regulated. Although it is likely not dangerous, it can be costly.

A well-planned mineral program means considering a variety of factors from cattle needs and nutrients, to mineral sources and management strategies — that planning can pay off in the long-run.

You might not see changes overnight, but the return on this investment can be long-term. More cows bred back, less calf health challenges and any number of factors could result from a well thought out mineral strategy. Planning a strategy now can pay-off later on.

Choosing a mineral can be challenging. Learn tips to help you select a mineral.

Green Pasture – Approach with Caution

Tuesday, April 11th, 2017

Green Grass - Approach with CautionSpring has sprung and green pasture is coming on like gangbusters in most parts of the country. For most of us, this is good news because green grass relieves some pressure from searching for quality hay at a reasonable price. Of course, with the rising cost of fertilizer, it may be hard to decide which is the lesser of two evils: high-priced hay or high-priced fertilizer. However, if you have pasture and intend to utilize it for horses, there are some things to consider.

Keep in mind that going from dry hay and grain to lush, green pasture is a drastic change in diet and may increase the risk of founder or colic. Horses that are in the pasture full time, will gradually become accustomed to the emerging green grass as it comes up. But horses that haven’t had green grass should only be allowed to graze for an hour or two at first, then gradually increase grazing time by an hour every couple days until the horse is out full time. It is also a good idea for horses to have eaten dry hay prior to turnout so they are not overly hungry. Individual horses will have different tolerance levels to the diet change and the nutritional profile of the grass, so a slower introduction is usually better.

Spring pasture often looks beautiful and nutritious but can be very high in water and low in fiber content. In this stage of maturity, pasture may not meet a horse’s minimum requirement for dry matter intake and it may be necessary to provide 10–15 lbs. of dry hay per day until the pasture matures. Even when the pasture is sufficient to maintain horses in good body condition with no supplemental grain, there will still be nutrient deficiencies. Providing a forage balancer product such as Purina® Enrich Plus™ will supply a balance of protein, vitamins and minerals to compliment pasture. This product is formulated to meet nutrient requirements of mature horses with 1–2 lbs. per day, whereas most feeds are formulated to be fed at a minimum of 3.5–4 lbs. per day.

Pasture simulates a natural environment for horses and is considered healthy from a nutritional standpoint and from a low-stress, mentally healthy perspective as well. You may have enough pasture to serve both functions but in many cases, available pasture is simply a place to run around and nibble for a few hours a day. You have to consider how many acres and the number of horses you have to determine if you have enough pasture to provide adequate grazing for the grass to play a significant role in your horses’ diet.

The very best pastures may support one horse per acre, but most conditions will require closer to 2–3 acres to sustain one horse grazing full time. The effective stocking rate will depend on the type of grass, fertilization and rain fall. For shorter varieties of grasses, such as Kentucky bluegrass, pasture must grow 3–4 inches tall to provide adequate forage for horses. Taller grasses, including Coastal bermudagrass, should sustain a height of 6–8 inches. Stocking rates may be improved if there is an option to rotate pastures.  Grazing tall forage varieties down to 3–4 inches and shorter varieties to 2 inches in height, then rotating to another pasture for four weeks can help maximize grazing potential of available acreage. Rotating pastures is also a good way to reduce the risk of internal parasite infestation. A good rule of thumb is that if you can see manure piles in your pasture and if horses are grazing close to those manure piles, your pasture is overgrazed and horses should be removed to let it recover.

Source: Karen E. Davison, Ph.D., Equine Nutritionist and Sales Support Manager, Purina Animal Nutrition

Horn Flies: the $1 Billion Bite at Cattle Profits

Monday, April 10th, 2017

Can you imagine being bit 120,000 times per day? It might be hard to imagine what this feels like, however during peak timeframes, as many as 4,000 horn flies can call a cow’s hide home.horn flies

At 30 blood meals per day, that adds up to 120,000 bites per cow. Not only are these bites irritating your cows, but with production losses for the U.S. cattle industry are estimated at up to $1 billion annually, they’re also biting away at your profits.

High horn fly populations can cause blood loss and increased cattle stress or annoyance. Annoyance can cause cattle to use their energy to combat flies, change their grazing patterns and cause cattle grouping. Ultimately, it can lead to decreases in milk production, causing a reduction in calf weaning weights.

From ear tags and pour-on to mineral or feed supplements with fly control, there are a lot of different ways to manage flies and each solution has a place in the industry.

But, the best places to start is by breaking the horn fly life cycle in the manure.

Making manure magic
One of the most convenient and consistent ways to control horn flies in cattle is giving them a mineral supplement that contains an Insect Growth Regulator (IGR). An IGR passes through the animal and into the manure, where horn flies lay their eggs. It breaks the horn fly life cycle by preventing pupae from developing into biting adult flies.

Using mineral supplements with an IGR can help reduce expenses, labor, and stress on your cattle that other methods can cause. Cattle don’t need to be rounded up or handled since IGR is consumed by the animal and fly control is spread through its manure as it grazes.

It also provides consistency, as cattle are regularly consuming IGR through their mineral.

In like a lion, out like a lamb
Fly control mineral should be fed 30 days before the last frost of spring, before fly emergence. This 30-day window at the beginning of spring is critical because temperatures can fluctuate to levels that cause flies to emerge. Once those flies are present, you want to have fly control in the manure.

While heavy emphasis is placed on controlling flies in spring and summer, it’s important to finish strong in the fall. Horn flies overwinter in the pupal stage, which can jump-start adult populations in the spring. Using fly control mineral longer in the fall decreases the opportunity for flies to overwinter in the soil and reduces large fly populations the following spring.

Mineral should continue being fed through summer and 30 days after the last frost in the fall.

Don’t let it wash away
There are many forms of fly control mineral available, but it’s important to choose one that can stand up to the unpredictable weather that spring brings. Rain and other elements can quite literally wash your mineral investment down the drain, or turn your mineral into a brick-type substance which cattle often refuse to eat.

Look for a fly control mineral that can withstand the weather. A weatherized mineral should have a large particle size and adequate water and wind resistance.

Using a fly control mineral this spring can help keep fly populations down, but only if cattle are consuming it. If you’re not seeing consumption because the mineral has been turned into a hard block or because the particles are being blown away, then your investment is a loss.


Ted Perry

– Purina Animal Nutrition, Lead Nutritionist, Beef Technical Solutions


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April 2017
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