The start of calving season is variable and can happen at any time during the year. But thanks to more modern methods of breeding management, ranchers can calve in the dead of winter. For most family-run farms and ranches, the start of calving season is a family tradition. A time of year that brings much anticipation and excitement for a new herd of calves, and all that the herd has to offer.
From sitting up all night monitoring the baby calves to the prosperity the future herd brings, calving season is here for cold weather farmers and ranchers. Regardless of when calving season starts in your family, what we want to delve into today is which type of mineral salt is best for your cattle. Because as any farmer or rancher knows, there is a heck of a lot more that goes into breeding other than genetics itself.
The other two important variables include management of the herd and the herd’s nutrition. The nutrition of the cow directly affects the gestation of the baby calve and the parturition process. It also affects breeding as well. What we want to explore is whether or not it’s best to utilize salt blocks or loose mineral salt to improve the nutrition of cows before and during the breeding process.
When comparing salt blocks to loose mineral salt, you’re really comparing quality versus quantity. While mineral supplements tend to cost more when it comes to providing supplements to your cows, you’ll get more bang for your buck. How so? In a variety of ways, starting with the fact that while loose mineral salt is costly, it’s actually fed to cows in very small quantities.
These small quantities will have a great impact on the health and well-being of your cows when breeding. Loose mineral salts are also easier for cows to consume, which means that this type of supplement will meet the cow’s nutritional needs. One of the concerns with the salt blocks is that cows just can’t lick enough of the salt from the blocks for the nutritional benefits that they have to offer.
In the long-run, using a loose mineral salt supplement for a herd is a cost-effect solution to maintaining the health and nutrition of cows. This method of nutritional supplementation is highly-effective and allows for adequate delivery of the much-needed vitamins and minerals the cow needs to breed successfully. The healthier the herd, the healthier the calves will be.
The overall cost of the product will vary depending upon the variation in phosphorus content. Ideal formulations of loose mineral salt should contain 8-10% of salt with 8-12% of phosphorus. The target intake for the herd should be about 2-4 ounces of loose mineral salt per head once a day. It may be difficult to achieve your target intake, as the intake for each animal will vary.
Some animals within the herd may consumer more mineral intake compared to others. With that said, the desired intake levels of a rancher or farmer for the herd is typically met on average. It is for this reason that most cattle producers prefer to use loose mineral salt. Additionally, mineral intake will vary from season-to-season for a herd. During the summer and winter months, mineral intake is generally high.
Whereas during the fall and spring months of the year, forage quality tends to decrease. The decrease in forage quality leads to an increase in free-choice intake for cows. These changes were noted in a study conducted by the University of Florida. This information is important to consider when contemplating the use of a mineral supplement to avoid over consumption of minerals.
When over consumption occurs, there has been some evidence linking to the reduction of a young cow’s reproductive performance. In the end, it is up to you as to which type of supplement to use for your herd, but at least now you can make a more informative decision when doing so. The quality of the supplement is more important than the quantity and in the long-run is a more cost-effective and effective solution to maintaining the health of your herd.