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Maximising Performance when Grazing

Vitamins and minerals make up very little of the daily dry matter intake in beef diets, and can sometimes be overlooked in a herd nutritional program. Even though they make up a very small portion of dietary nutrients, minerals and vitamins are crucial for healthy animal function in beef cattle.

Age and production level determines the requirements for trace elements; young, gestating, and lactating animals have the highest needs. Deficiencies of trace elements can have implications for proper animal function such as immune function, bone formation, muscular function, and nervous system function. If a proper mineral regimen is not implemented, cattle growth and reproductive performance may be negatively impacted. At least fifteen different minerals are necessary for the health and productivity of sheep and cattle. While some elements, referred to as trace elements, are needed in much smaller levels, important elements like calcium and phosphorus are needed in very substantial proportions.

The four trace elements that have the greatest economic significance in the UK are iodine (I), copper (Cu), selenium (Se), and cobalt (Co). Deficiencies in zinc (Zn) and manganese (Mn) are far less common. Certain minerals may impact the utilisation of vital trace elements. For instance, molybdenum (Mo) and sulphur (S) can cause a copper deficiency. The trace element concentration of forage and concentrates varies greatly depending on the type of soil, pH, drainage, plant species, and application of fertilisers. Testing for trace elements can identify severe deficits, but it is usually merely a guide. Generally speaking, clay soils have higher quantities of these elements than sandy soils. Forage analysis can offer guidance in addition to soil testing, but the results can be unclear and need to be interpreted carefully.

Trace mineral deficiencies, most notably Se, Cu, Zn, Mn, Co, and I, can be observed when cattle rely solely on forages to meet their requirements.
Common methods of supplementation include;
• Mineralised compound/blended feeds
• Powdered minerals within TMR
• Free access blocks and licks
• Boluses
• Liquid minerals
Regardless of the choice of supplementation method, trace mineral nutrition is essential for the proper development, performance, health, and reproduction of cattle. Efforts to meet the trace mineral requirements of grazing beef cattle are vital for the overall productivity of the beef grazing system.

For further information on maximising your beef herd, please speak to your local NWF Sales Specialist or call 0800 756 2787.

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