5 Tips for Managing Free Choice Mineral Intake

Jan 04, 2021

Tara Ellerman
Livestock Nutrition Specialist 
Mineral is a major foundation of a sound nutrition program for cattle. The nutrients provided in Countryside Feed’s Purina® and Beef Builder® mineral line ups are required for growth, immunity, handling stress, repairing the reproductive tract, and many more bodily functions. Learning to manage free choice mineral intake is very important. Under consumed mineral leaves gaps in nutrition that it is designed to fill, while over consumed mineral can be very costly. 
Here are a few tips to polish up your free choice mineral management:
1)Know the suggested feeding rate
Minerals are formulated to provide the nutrients your cattle need in a specified amount of product. Majority of our floor stocked minerals at Countryside Feed are recommended to be fed at 4 ounces or 0.25 pounds per head per day. This breaks down to 200 feedings in a 50-pound bag.  
2)Know how much mineral your cattle are eating
They say you can’t manage what you don’t manage, this 100% applies to properly managing mineral consumption. Keeping a record of how much free choice mineral your cows are consuming in each pasture is the best way to know if you are on track! Calculating how much mineral cows are consuming is simple and takes 3, key pieces of information: 
  1. The amount of mineral delivered to each pasture
  2. How long it takes for the cows to consume the mineral
  3. How many cattle are in the pasture
Then plug the information you gathered into the following formula:
           Mineral consumption = (mineral delivered) / (days to consume * number of cattle)

If your mineral consumption does not match the suggested feeding rate, it’s time to consider different free choice mineral management practices!
3)Consider Feeder placement
The location of mineral feeders can make a huge difference in the amount of mineral your cattle will consume and is a great place to start if your cattle are under or over consuming mineral. 
  • To limit intake, place feeders away from water sources, shade, loafing areas, and heavily traveled areas. 
  • To encourage intake, move feeders closer to water sources, shade, loafing areas, and heavily traveled areas. 
4)Type of feeder
The type of feeder used can also make an impact on mineral consumption. Typically, a mineral feeder that is placed on the ground will result in higher intakes than a feeder that is one to two feet off the ground. 
5)Cutting with salt
Countryside Feed’s Purina® and Beef Builder® mineral lines are formulated to provide adequate salt for cattle when consumed at suggested feeding rates. This means you should not need to add salt to your mineral to meet their requirements. That being said, cutting mineral with salt is a common tactic to limit over consumed mineral. Although this is an effective way to slow down mineral consumption, keep in mind that you are diluting everything in your mineral, including additives. If cattle need to eat the formulated amount of an additive (such as fly control) to be effective, diluting the mineral may leave you disappointed in the performance of the additive! 
Contact your Countryside Feed representative to discuss which minerals are right for your operation and for more tips on management of free choice minerals! 

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