Looking to Cut Costs this Spring? Think Twice before Cutting Vitamins, Minerals, and Vaccinations



With increasing input costs and many regions having poor growing conditions in recent years, there is pressure this spring to reduce input costs wherever possible. It is important to make these decisions carefully – sometimes the short-term savings are out-weighed by much greater long-term costs. Skimping on your vaccination or vitamin and mineral programs may save you in the short term, but can set you up for long-lasting negative consequences. 
 

Not meeting minimum nutritional needs increases treatment and death rates 

While vitamin and mineral supplements may seem like an added or unwanted cost, maintaining or enhancing your nutrition program can help prevent both reproductive wrecks and sickness in the future.  

Vitamin supplementation becomes even more critical during and after drought. Vitamins A and E come from leafy green plants, so these vitamins are likely to be deficient when cows are eating drought-impacted forages. Calves born the spring following a drought have a much higher risk of vitamin A deficiency, and calves with severe vitamin A deficiency are nearly three times more likely to die than those with higher vitamin A levels. Vitamin A can be provided in an injectable form, but the typical vitamin A, D and E injectable supplement does not contain enough vitamin E to improve an animal’s mineral status and vitamin E must be supplemented another way.  
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Be Mindful of Minerals

What mineral supplementation do I need and when do I need it?

Beef producers might know they should supplement their herds with mineral, but trying to wade through all the choices at the livestock supply store can be overwhelming. Commercial suppliers seem to make claims and offer something different, but with tubs and bags of every colour and price available, how to you know which one is right for your herd? What minerals do your cattle actually need and how is it best delivered?

total mixed feed ration for beef cattle


In general, beef cattle producers should be supplementing mineral to their herds whether they are grazing or being fed a winter ration.

Megan Van Schaik, a Beef Cattle Specialist with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) says there are some key things producers want to look at. In general, producers should be supplementing mineral to their herds whether they are grazing or being fed a winter ration.

Van Schaik says there are a host of variables that impact mineral nutrition and deficiencies in beef herds. “They present in many different ways and alarm bells usually go off when we see reproductive issues,” she says, but adds that mineral status can be linked to general health problems and even calf abnormalities. Mineral deficiencies can also cause less obvious production losses that can be easily avoided with proper supplementation. Continue reading

What’s in your (stock) water?



Beef producers often worry about having too much water or not enough on their farms. However water quality, particularly in fluctuating stock water sources, may go unnoticed. As the summer wears on, evaporation, low rainfall, and consumption can cause the quantity and quality of surface water to dwindle. Meanwhile, hot and dry conditions cause cattle to be at their peak water demand.

“Poor quality drinking water is often a factor that limits intake,” said Leah Clark, livestock specialist with the Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture. “When we limit intake we limit production,” she explained in a recent webinar, adding that poor stock water quality can impact animal performance through reduced gains and decreased reproductive success. In severe cases, water quality issues can lead to disease and death. Testing stock water may be particularly important during a drought, when minerals and nutrients can become concentrated as water tables drop in surface or ground water.

Recent producer surveys indicate most Canadian farmers need to test water more often. In western Canada, 59% of producers reported they don’t test their water, and only 17-41% of Quebec and Ontario producers reported testing water once every five years.

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