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Supplementing Cattle with Vitamins & Minerals

Supplementing Cattle with Vitamins & Minerals

Firstly, don't over supplement! Minerals and Vitamins can be toxic in excess. Examples of this are:-

  • A couple of years ago , lamb milk powder was slightly over supplemented with Vitamin A. In lambs drinking a lot, rather than restricted bottle feeding, they became sick and some died.
  • Copper poisoning is not unheard of in dairy cattle nowadays.
  • Some breeds of sheep will die of copper poisoning even without accidental overdose.
  • Selenium is more poisonous than arsenic and apparently it is the reason General Custer lost the Battle of Little Big Horn!  Selenium rich grazing caused his horses to go lame.

Minerals do interact with each other in many ways, reducing each other’s absorption or effectiveness. Chelation is a process where a metal ion is enclosed in an amino acid, thus protecting it from interactions and increasing its absorption with the amino acid (protein building block).

I cover some of this material in another article - Keeping Mins & Vits balanced .         

It is important to get the "Macro-minerals" right first. Macro-minerals are those needed in relatively large amounts, in terms of grams per day per cow:-

  • Calcium - large amounts go out of the animal into milk and into growth.
  • Phosphorus - used in energy metabolism. Linked to calcium, the ratio between them being important.
  • Magnesium - involved in lots of enzymes that  'make the body work'
  • Sodium / Salt - involved in transport within the body , fluid balance & nervous impulses
  • Sulphur - in many proteins and needed by rumen bugs to make proteins. Important if NPN (urea) used.
  • Potassium - works with sodium, as above.

Next it’s the "Micro-minerals", needed in milligrams or micrograms. The ones we generally consider are those that are limited in the diets at particular times:-

  • Iron is Important in calves, we include iron in our First Thirst Calf Colostrum Supplement.
  • Copper, Cobalt, Selenium - the Holy Trinity of trace elements- Vital for good growth and milk production in the correct amounts. Copper is optional depending on the likelihood of poisoning, but all three are usually included in supplements such as Bovi-Power Drench. For a long-term plan, Tracesure Cu-I, Tracesure Cu-I calf Tracesure ICosecure, CoseIcure and Tracesure Sheep Traffic Light Boluses are useful
  • Copper is included in our Ovi-Power "CoppaGrow" drench for use when a copper deficiency is diagnosed. Otherwise Ovi-Power with No Added Copper should be used.
  • Copper is commonly "locked-up" by Molybdenum in grass and feeds. Cosecure & CoseIcure , I would say are the best at counteracting this interaction.
  • Manganese is a common enzyme activator and involved in fertility. We chelate it to prevent interactions with selenium.
  • Zinc - important for skin, hoof,fur and reproductive hormones
  • Iodine is used by the thyroid gland to make T3 & T4 hormones to govern metabolic rate, foetal development, immune defence, digestion, muscle function and reproduction. My commonest encounter with iodine deficiency has been in stillborn calves. Brassicas (Kale, Swedes etc.) contain chemicals that reduce thyroid hormone production which can PARTLY be headed off by increasing iodine levels in the diet. We use Tracesure Cu-I  bolues for cows out wintered on kale. I would say this is the bolus of choice if Iodine is a concern, or without copper as Tracesure I.
  • Every farm is different! So the solutions are varied. We can supply standard Zintec bagged mineral, Buckets or Bespoke mineral mixes.

If you have any questions, please call Graham on 01772 690131.

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