What is a Good Mineral Program?

I wrote a post a while ago about “hidden hunger.”  Go here to read about it.  I find it fascinating.

3-19-2017 UPDATE:  I often get asked if we still use the Helfter mineral program.  I am happy to say that we no longer need this program for our cows to remain healthy.  This was a very good investment for an older, sick cow we owned in 2015.  We no longer have her and our current herd is thriving on loose minerals (we get a high- quality, loose mineral from our local feed mill).  I do provide magnesium and calcium in addition to their combined minerals.  These were the 2 minerals our herd was most deficient in.  

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Does your Cow have hidden hunger?

Is there something missing in your cow’s 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. They are faster and easier for the cows to ingest.

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So I switched to loose minerals…………

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.  His minerals were all combined into one bag.

If you have a happy, healthy thriving herd, these bags of loose minerals will probably be sufficient in providing what you cows need.  You may want to provide some extra magnesium (in spring) to avoid grass tetany.  You also may want to provide some extra calcium during calving season to avoid milk fever…. We do.  But other than that, a bagged mineral program should meet your cows needs.

WHAT DOES A GOOD MINERAL PROGRAM LOOK LIKE?

  • A Good mineral program is always available.  Don’t let your cows run out of minerals.  Keep the bins full.
  • Be sure there are minerals available in every field.  If you rotate your cows, be sure you have plenty of minerals in every fields.
  • Protect the minerals from the weather.  You don’t want it to rain, snow, hail or have your cows minerals blowing away with the weather.  Keep the minerals in a run in, barn or shelter so they will remain intact and available.
  • Check them regularly.  Be sure to check on your minerals in your fields often.  Sometimes they run out.  Sometimes they poop in them.  Sometimes they flip the container across the field.  You just never know when you are going to walk out to the run-in and find the minerals in disarray.
  • Provide some extra.  There are seasons and times in a cow’s life when she (or he) may need some extra nutrition.  It can be because of spring, calf season, allergy season or just an elderly cow.

If you feel like you are offering a great mineral program to your herd and still feel like your cow’s health needs improvement you may want to look into Helfter Feeds.

We had an older cow with several health concerns and we decided to boost our mineral program.

We dealt with mastitis, milk fever, ketosis and infertility.

This is why I contacted Helfter Feeds.

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 the one they want.

If you have healthy, normal cows who have access to good pasture, good hay and good feed – you probably do not need to invest in this sort of mineral program.  If you have a cow (or cows) with health concerns, this mineral program may be just what she needs to get healthy.

Decide what is right for your farm and your cows.

We have had very healthy cows without medical issues.  We have had unhealthy cows who needed some extra TLC.  For our struggling cows, we decided to invest in some separate free-choice minerals, for a time,  in order to help them regain health.

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.  It wasn’t cheap.  I will tell you that after you take the hit on the initial package the ongoing cost is much lower, since you only have to reorder the minerals you run out of.  We only have a few cows, and their health concerns were quickly addressed.

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

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Now, I must get these in front of my cows.

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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.  When friends are knocking down old barns – I’ll take some wood.  When the big-box home improvement store throws away warped wood – I’ll take it.  When our local store throws out pallets – I’ll take them.  When I pass construction sites with leftover wood – I’ll take that too.  I am not picky.

If it’s free wood – I’m in.

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With my free wood, a chop-saw and some drywall screws I made this.

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The mineral feeder is going in the back of the run-in to protect it from the weather.  When we brought it to the field the cows were very interested in the new fixture.

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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.

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We couldn’t even get all the minerals into the bins before the cows showed up at the buffet.

“What’s this?”

“Oh my. Oh yum”

“Nom, munch, slurp.”

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Once you get the free-choice minerals in front of your cow prepare to be amazed.  In a few days you will know what they were missing.  My cows depleted the mineral bin filled with 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.

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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-Candi

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