I have spent a fair amount of time lately discussing the benefits of grass-fed beef, but there’s so much more to nutrition than just grass. Here are a few benefits of augmenting your cattle’s diet with mineral supplements:
Proper body composition aids in calving. Cows are more fertile when their body fat is maintained at appropriate levels. This isn’t to say some fluctuation is abnormal, but your cows should have a Body Condition Score (BCS) of 7 on a nine-point scale before calving begins for optimal fertility. This affects both conception rates and the length of the calving cycle.
Supplements can extend the natural grazing season. We may not have to contend with snow on the ground, but there does come a time in the growing season that growth either slows down or ceases altogether. This is typically the point in the season where ranchers will switch over to hay. However, the grass is still there, it just may be a bit light on nutrients. By supplementing the natural pasture graze, you can delay the switch to more costly hay feed or even skip it entirely.
How does a rancher go about getting these supplements?
- Find a feed store with a livestock nutritionist. The key difference between an off-the-shelf supplement and one custom-blended for your situation is your cattle will get all of the nutrients they need, and very little they don’t.
- Bring in samples of what your cattle are grazing. The closer this is to what they’re actually eating, the better. Are your cattle leaving a 12-inch stubble? Break off your sample there. Do they avoid certain plants? You should leave them out, too. Use gloves and a clean container to ensure no outside contamination. And this won’t be a “one and done” process. Ideally, the nutritionist will want a monthly sample to be sure the supplement blend is keeping up with changes in your cattle’s intake.
- Offer a free-choice loose mineral/salt blend. This ensures that each animal takes what it needs, rather than more dominant animals having better access. The same goes for protein or energy supplements.
Take the extra time and effort to supplement your cattle’s diet with the nutrients they need, for their health and ours. Better nutrition equals better taste.