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Video 30 Minerals in cattle

Minerals and vitamins can play a key role in cattle health. They have a wide range of functions in immunity and cell function. They can be involved together in some biological processes like iodine and selenium in thyroid function. While some show obvious clinical symptoms like milk fever and grass tetany many others can be nonspecific. This creates a challenge that I feel we must put some more science into mineral analysis on the farm.

I have always felt we need to put more science into discovering what minerals are a problem on our farms.

There are different times of year we certainly need to be more mindful of certain minerals.

Your big risk areas for seasonal beef systems are

  • Suckler cow at calving time
  • 1st and 2nd grazers at pasture
  • Finishing cattle indoors

We can certainly all just supplement based on these known risk times with the appropriate mineral.

Suckler cow at calving time is going through a big metabolic shift. Calving time means new milk production and also immunological stress. We must balance calcium and magnesium as two critical macro minerals at calving time. Also, selenium and iodine play key roles in immune function for the cows at calving. with selenium Vit E also plays a role at calving time with so many oxidative processes and stress occurring. They also play an important role in calf health

At breeding time we also must make sure that minerals are balanced in the cow and don’t forget the bull either. Minerals that are essential at this time of year are copper, selenium, and iodine.

Magenousm is critical during grazing and right up to weaning time in the suckler cow.

For first and 2nd grazers at grass, we want to ensure that they are thriving. The building blocks for this are energy, protein, and good rumen function. We also want to manage parasites and diseases. Minerals play a role also particularly making sure we have no deficiencies.

Finishing cattle indoors is where we push animals on to achieve their weights. Minerals can also play a role and must be balanced in their diets.

An interesting mineral we also need to watch is sodium (salt). It is a mineral where cows, in particular, will self regulate. This means they will only consume it if they need it.

Minerals can be complicated when we have diets with several inputs. In a thorough mineral mining exercise on the farm, we need to consider all sources of mineral including testing the water.


So while every farm is slightly different it is good to look under the hood and see what minerals you may require


Forage analysis over the winter months is important and with silage, this can be done soon after cutting. If we are taking forage mineral analysis we want to target silage analysis for the dry cow diet.

This will also allow us to target the calf, as in the womb and on milk, their mineral and vitamin status will be dictated by their mother’s diet.

For other minerals, we can consider blood tests like selenium iodine, B12 (for cobalt). With copper, we push for liver sampling and this could be done by arranging to have liver samples taken from culls in the factory.

Soil and herbage (in particular) is also important to determine what are any potential deficiencies.

We must remember with copper, we rarely see a true deficiency but more cases present where it is locked up by molybdenum, iron or sulfur.  Watch the video above where I talk about building a profile for minerals. While this may seem like a very extreme and complicated look at what the farm’s mineral status is? It isn’t required each year with forage analysis only required yearly. Then routine herbage and blood can be done less frequently.

This is only a  brief overview

  • Minerals play a role in animal health and immunity
  • We need to get a handle on what minerals and when in our beef herds
  • Target supplementation to these risks


Thought for the day

If you are going to be ever asking questions, make sure you ask good ones. Great questions means we get better answers that often hold more meaning and value.

Huge thanks to Nettex and Rumenco for their support in helping me make #50in50 for more information on their mineral range click here https://www.rumenco.co.uk/

Happy safe farming

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