Micronutrients Early in Life Yield at the Feedyard

Published on: 15:27PM Jan 10, 2013

By Dan Larson and Jeremy Martin, cattle nutritionists


As the value of feeder and finished cattle climbs, production risk increases as well. Therefore, as cattle producers and nutritionists, we need to search for strategies that can create
improvements in feed efficiency.

Micronutrients are a class of feedstuffs fed at very small amounts that are essential to basic body functions. Since they are fed at such low levels, micronutrients are typically subject to
antagonism by other nutrients, which may reduce their efficacy or restrict them entirely. When bound to an organic molecule such as an amino acid or an organic acid, micronutrients are less subject to antagonism and may be more available to the animal. This is accomplished by a biochemical process known as chelation.

Necessary for growth. The strategic, targeted use of chelated trace minerals in cowherds is gaining popularity in many areas, backed by a variety of research data. Micronutrients include zinc, cobalt, copper, manganese, chromium, selenium and iodine. Zinc, cobalt, copper and iodine can improve foot quality and growth performance.

Chromium may improve feed intake and energy utilization, especially in newly received feedlot cattle. Zinc, copper and manganese are the trace minerals most likely to benefit cowherd reproduction if supplied in the chelated form.

Numerous reports show that feeding chelated trace minerals during prebreeding positively impacts reproductive parameters, resulting in quicker return to ovarian activity after calving, improved AI conception rate and improved pregnancy rate. Our own experience indicates it is possible to produce substantially more calves early in the breeding season, with up to 20% more cows calving first cycle in some herds.

The most critical time for making changes to your mineral program is from 60 days prior to the breeding season to the midpoint of the breeding season. During this time frame, we expect the combination of an ionophore and a high level of chelated trace minerals to increase mineral cost by approximately $3 to $6 per head annually over the cost of a mineral with no ionophore or chelated trace minerals. Other benefits at this stage include improved calf health and immune response.

Receive and feed. Micronutrients are essential to calves’ health. Zinc and copper amino acid chelates have been shown to improve immune function and response to vaccinations compared to inorganic supplements. When organic trace minerals were fed at supranutritional levels, the incidence of respiratory disease dropped by 17.2%. Chromium propionate
may increase feed efficiency and reduce mortality rates.

In a series of studies, chromium propionate reduced the number of animals treated by more than 10% and reduced mortality by 3% to 7%. In a separate trial, increasing levels of chromium
propionate increased dry matter intake in the first 56 days on feed by more than 5%. In the finishing phase, feeding 360 mg of zinc methionine per day increased final weight by 40 lb.
compared to control groups. The cost of the zinc methionine product was 2¢ per day, or $2.80 for a 140-day feeding period; however, the return was $45 per head.

As you can see, chelated trace minerals may be more expensive, but their availability to the animal can create profit.

DAN LARSON AND JEREMY MARTIN are ruminant nutritionists at Great Plains Livestock Consulting, Inc. For more information, visit their website at www.gplc-inc.com.