Solving Roadblocks to Supplementing Minerals on the Ranch

I recently sat in on a roundtable discussion about using mineral supplements on ranches that are practicing managed grazing. It turned out that even though it is well known that our region suffers from some serious soil deficiencies, most of the people in the group had extremely modest mineral programs. The reasons folks gave for not using mineral supplement were all over the map, but most were what I’d call technical, rather than nutritional. Here’s a sample of what I heard: Minerals cost way too much. Moving minerals around in a grazing program is just too much work. They’re too heavy. The feeders don’t work. It rains too much here and it spoils the minerals. They’re too messy. I have goats that graze with my cattle. Minerals make the bed of my truck rust. An additional set of complaints centered on problems with the science behind mineral nutrition. Turns out, many folks don’t believe that their cows really need mineral supplementation – they’re still alive, after all—or they believe that giving injections or putting out salt blocks or applying chemical fertilizer is “good enough”. Since I am not a veterinarian or a ruminant nutritionist, I think I’ll leave the science part t

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9 thoughts on “Solving Roadblocks to Supplementing Minerals on the Ranch

  1. Nice discussion! Mineral feeder is a handy tool!

    We use the tri-compartment orange soiux city feeders purchased in ranch closeout sales…$40 each…choice more from long term experience and durability. Poke a hole in small piece of rubber innertube for water tight gasket over stem and under the rubber lid…..9 ga wire loop rather than bolt on top of stem makes for a handle and lid containment. Per compartment: redmund natural block, 70:30 plain white salt:redmund conditioner (toxicology), 12 stones organic mineral w/ or w/out Wind and Rain depending on use/need/plant diversity (up to a 50:50 blend). Really like having all three separate to better monitor use….white salt/conditioner normal heavy use….mixed mineral varies but < 1 oz/hd/d avg…both mixes normally last 1-3 weeks…..block is a backup, a weight, and a source of 60+ elements.

    Real easy to roll/slide feeder onto a 4×8 utility ATV trailer for pasture rotation….trailer stays parked few feet away from feeder. Feeder placed in areas needing heavy impact and a handful or two of seed mix is spread over the impacted area (currently switch fescue and Johnson grass, lespedeza, and birdsfoot…really depends on what seed is handy and time of year). Other comment I will add is to put a loop of paracord or small length of rope through one of the bolt holes for better handling in mud or for ease of loading. This type of feeder can also be used to limit feed CSM/SBM:salt on dormant rangeland…where you want things to stay dry!

    Having more than 1 mineral feeder is important inre the perils of 'common grounds'. So we keep them spread over the ranch….when not in use….pull the lid and block…..let natural UV light sterilize the feeder….thus breaking the cycle of pathogens/parasites associated with a 'common grounds' items.

    One of the NRSC sites has county/state level quadrant soil mineral survey data….just make sure to read and see if it is actual core data or alluvial soil data….such data is a 'guide only' for mixes. Because, the main question is: Does the property have sufficient plant root diversity to deliver enough natural minerals to the grazing animal to reduce the cost/need of supplement? Plants such as know Selenium accumulators…are they part of your stock diet?

  2. Our vet, and his wife, run over a thousand head of cow/calf so we put a lot of stock in what they tell us we should be doing. Based on extensive soil testing in a 5 county area around us they custom mix mineral to use on their ranch and sell to their local clients. They instructed us to feed a week’s worth of mineral to our yearling steers at the rate of 4 oz per head and no more. If they eat it up in the first 4 days so be it. Generally they will finish a week’s worth in 5 or 6 days so it works out well. We use a flexible low wall rubber tub and they haven’t knocked it over yet. Rain has never been an issue for us.

  3. I was hoping that you were going to talk about bioavailability and how not all mineral is created equal. Working for a mineral company in the past I feel like we need to educate producers more on what forms of the minerals are more efficient for our animals. Your 15$ bag from a big store is not the same quality as you might get from a company that deals in mineral. Knowing the difference between selenium methionine and others can be extremely beneficial if you have issues with antagonist minerals in your water or forages.

    1. Hi Colin,
      We’re going to talk about that, it’s just a complicated topic with different answers for different places/producers, etc. John does have his own custom blended mix suitable for his cows and his place. Maybe he’ll tell you more about that.

      1. O I just meant for others I know the difference I am actually working on my masters in ruminant nutrition at the moment! I just commented because I feel like a lot of companies fail to educate producers on the difference in minerals. And if you live in an area that has high sulfur in the water those differences in the mineral can be vital for your cattle. Just love educating producers so I just wanted to bring up a topic that is overlooked at times! Glad y’all are going to discuss that! Keep up the good work!

  4. We have sheep and use a custom mineral that we mix based on the nutritionist’s recipes. For the mineral feeders I’ve tried all of the options and they do not work for us. Your cattle must not like to play with things much. Rams flip the tubs over with their horns. Ewes and lambs sleep in the mineral and get it into their wool and then waste it.I’ve gone to the big heavy cattle mineral feeders with wind vanes for the rams and use Sydell rotating mineral feeders for the ewes. That’s the only way I can keep mineral in front of them all the time without them flipping over the tubs and spilling all the mineral. We did have to modify one of the cattle mineral feeders to make it lower so the rams could reach it but otherwise it works well.

  5. I’ve been using a 55 gallon drum/24″ tire mineral homemade mineral feeder for years. At least 5 years of use by 30+ cows and it’s still in one piece. Keeps the minerals dry and easy to move. I usually use an atv to pull around, but can be dragged by hand when not too full.

    Nice video by NC Cooperative Extension on how to make one:

    1. We have also been using the drum/tire feeder for several years and learned about it from the linked video. They work great, none tipped over yet, keep minerals fairly dry and are inexpensive to make.

  6. Great to see someone advocating KISS for mineral. We use low-sided rubber feed bowls, about 16″ diam from the feed store, nailed to a square of plywood. Nail through the bottom and bend the nails over. I got fancy and started cutting handles in the plywood. A day or two worth of mineral fits in a left over screw top food service container. 2 pounds of nuts from Target, a gallon of bulk garlic from pizza restaurant, and protein powder tubs from a body-builder friend are all sources of good containers for a day’s worth of mineral. I am happy to throw the “waste” mineral out on the pasture with the small thought that when the animals graze that spot next year they will get it back in the forage.

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