What is a Good Mineral Program for Cows?

Reader Contribution by Candi Johns
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It can sometimes be difficult to gauge whether our animals are getting everything they need in their diet to be healthy.

Is there something missing in your cows’ diet?

How would you know if there was something missing?

How can you be sure your cows are getting all the minerals they need?

Everyone in the cattle-world emphasizes the importance of a “Good Mineral Program.” It is the topic of discussions at the vet, in the fields, and at various cattle-oriented events. Could someone please explain what a “Good Mineral Program” looks like. I need someone to show me.

If you are wondering (like me) what a “Good Mineral Program” is — prepare to be enlightened!

When I first got my cow I put out salt blocks. I got the red ones instead of the white ones because they were better. After talking with a few dairy experts and attending some Kentucky Cattleman Meetings, I learned that loose minerals were superior to mineral blocks.

A feed-expert came a Kentucky Cattleman Meeting. He (like many others) discussed the importance of a “Good Mineral Program.” After hearing him I went to his store and bought the best minerals he had to offer. His minerals were very high quality. They were loose minerals. They contained everything a cow needed. His minerals were all combined into one bag.

After switching to his super-minerals, something still seemed to be missing in my cow’s diets.

We have dealt with mastitis, milk fever, ketosis and infertility. Could these problems be due to something missing from our cow’s diet?

I contacted Helfter Feeds to see what they had to offer. Helfter does minerals differently.

Here’s the overview:

Most minerals that are sold for cattle are all combined together in a bag or block. When all the minerals are mixed together the cows can’t take in JUST the minerals they need. When they lick the mineral block, or eat the loose minerals they have to take in ALL the minerals just to get the ones they need.

Let’s say your cow needs calcium. In order to get more calcium she will have to take in 14+ other minerals just to get more calcium.

Helfter minerals are different. Helfter separates the minerals so they are all free choice. This means the cows can get any minerals they need any time. It’s amazing. I have 12 different minerals available to them & the cows only take what they need.

I purchased the 12 mineral package for dairy (or beef) cows from Helfter. I received a 25 pound bag of each mineral. That’s a total of 300 pounds of minerals. I will tell you that after you take the hit on the initial investment the ongoing cost is much lower, since you only have to reorder the minerals you run out of. We only have a few cows, so we don’t need to reorder often.

After you place your order, you will have a few hundred pounds of minerals in your garage.

Now, I must get these in front of my cows. There are some fancy (and expensive) mineral ‘feeders’ available for purchase out there. Since, I don’t have a lot of money to spend on feeders, I am going to build my own.

A trip to the barn to the scrap lumber pile is in order.

We have a pile of random wood in our big red barn. It is wonderful. Anytime we have leftover wood it goes here. I am always collecting wood for our scrap pile.

With my free wood, a chop-saw and some drywall screws I made this. The mineral feeder is going in the back of the run-in to protect it from the weather.

With DH’s help, we got the mineral feeder up in no time. My oldest daughter and I poured the 12 minerals into the slots. We couldn’t even get all the minerals into the bins before the cows showed up at the buffet.

Once you get the free-choice minerals in front of your cows prepare to be amazed. In a few days you will know what they were missing. My cows depleted the calcium 3 times in 1 week.

Helfter minerals are an investment, they are not for everyone. I have many cow owning friends who use the bagged combination from our local feed store. We had several health concerns and needed to be sure that a nutritional deficiency wasn’t the problem.

The cows LOVE their mineral buffet … and I feel good that my animals are getting what they need to be healthy.

Healthy, spoiled cows.

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