In my last blog (about 7 weeks ago), I predicted that it always rains at the end of a drought. For many of us in the northern plains, we received one to two feet of snow in April. Some had more, and some had less, but in many areas it was the first appreciable amount of precipitation in months. Could it be that it may snow at the end of a drought? Perhaps so, but it is way too early to say we are coming out of the great drought of 2012. There will be ample moisture in many places to spur some spring growth of cool season grasses. Jon Albro had an excellent Blog on March 19th about the increased likelihood of grass tetany following a dry winter. As you read this today, many of you may already be experiencing that. Hopefully you have had high magnesium supplements out ahead of the threat.
As we move into May, many of you are close to turning your bulls out, and for those of you that calve in February, they are already out. Whether you have had to deal with grass tetany or not, your next nutritional opportunity is your summer mineral program. While the grass may be lush, and you may be tempted to reduce supplement costs, your summer mineral program is one of the cheapest times of the year to meet your herd’s supplemental nutrient needs. This is primarily because (most of the time) you do not need to supplement protein, and self-fed supplement intake in the summer time is generally low. Spring and summer supplementation programs also ensure that your beef herd is in optimal condition to conceive next year’s calf crop. I would place that fairly high on any Cattleman’s priority list. Should we really be cutting corners here?
But do you need supplements on lush spring forage? For your local area, your County Extension Agents would have the best information. From a broader view, we can look at the NAHMS (National Animal Health Monitoring System) 1997 forage survey, which summarized over 700 forage samples in 23 states. Of 38 native grass samples submitted, only 18% were adequate for copper and only 23 % were adequate for zinc. Similarly, of 70 introduced grass samples submitted, 30% were adequate for copper and 34 % were adequate for zinc. Only about 23% of all 108 grass samples were adequate for selenium. While it stated that these samples were fairly mature at the time of sampling, it still demonstrates that your grass pastures are more often than not, going to be inadequate for copper, zinc and selenium. These are three of the most important trace minerals for reproduction in a beef cow.
But, you say, will they be adequate in the spring? Can I skip spring mineral supplementation? While grasses will likely have their highest concentration of trace minerals in the spring, there is still a chance that they may not be adequate. If we look at the two graphs below from work conducted in Oregon, we can see the average concentration for zinc and copper, in 10 grasses sampled, never do reach an adequate level over a 2 year period (10 ppm for copper and 30 ppm for zinc). Again, your local Extension Agent would have more specific information for your local forages.
May and June are very busy times for all Ranchers and Farmers. But self-fed summer mineral programs will generally only cost from 6 to 12 cents per head per day. While your grasses may be deficient in just a few trace minerals, it is important to supplement with a properly balanced mineral product. CRYSTALYX® Brand Mineral Supplement blocks are available to your herd 24/7, and are formulated to take the guess work out of those ratios. Additionally, CRYSTALYX® Brand Supplements can be used to lure your cattle to underutilized rangeland and pastures, so that you get maximum utilization of your grass and efficient herd breed-up, all with a minimum requirement on your time, to just roll out the barrels.