Using Winter Supplements for Herd Health

Published on Fri, 09/24/2021 - 12:37pm

Using Winter Supplements for Herd Health.

 By Maura Keller.

 With colder winter temperatures, a cattle herd has greater energy requirements and protein supplementation becomes a crucial part of maintaining a cows’ body condition scores while growing a healthy calf.

“Cattle producers demand and expect more out of their cattle today versus 25 years ago. They want their calves to hit the ground healthy and strong,” says Jed Archibald, CEO at Key-Lix. “The need is for the mother cow to have good colostrum quality for the newborn calf as well as being in great shape herself, to be bred back. There are definitely higher expectations on our herds now, versus 25 years ago. Proper supplementation is key to making sure your herd is healthy and can fulfil their greatest potential.”

Key-Lix offers a wide variety of supplement products and the company recognizes that every stockman’s needs are different.

“We offer our customers the opportunity to produce custom tubs, specifically formulated to their herds’ needs,” Archibald says. “We also have formulated tubs specifically designed for deficiencies including: both micro and macro nutrients, bypass proteins, and fertility aid.”

David Gisleson, national sales manager at Compass Minerals, says that winter is a key time for cows as that is typically when they are gestating. This means proper nutrition and sufficient minerals are needed because of the colder temperatures and the fact they are in process of growing a healthy calf.

Feeding a complete mineral supplement is key, and Compass Minerals has a full line of products that fit the bill. As Gisleson explains, a well-rounded mineral supplement should contain salt, calcium, phosphorus and trace minerals.

“The needed trace minerals will depend on your geography and other nutritional sources of those trace minerals, such as zinc, iron, manganese, copper, iodine, cobalt and selenium,” Gisleson says. Compass Minerals offers American Stockman® Big 6® Mineral Salt to meet the trace mineral needs in cows. In addition, American Stockman offers a full line of products that can meet more individualized and specific nutritional needs.

Abe Scheaffer, Ph.D, director of nutrition, science & technology at SweetPro, a division of Harvest Fuel Inc., says that there are key issues that producers need to consider when selecting the proper winter cow supplements.

“Generally the fall and winter months are considered a time of maintenance in the traditional cow-calf production cycle,” Scheaffer says. “But the production beef cow is never in a maintenance context. She is always in production—as a replacement and first-calf heifers, pregnancy, re-breeding, lactation. Due to the variability of forages, meeting the cow’s nutritional requirements needs to be prioritized so that she can meet the production goals the livestock producer has.”

Obviously the winter season introduces variability into the availability of nutrients for the production beef cow. These variabilities include, gestation, temperature, wind/speed, snow/depth, forage quality and availability.

“Temperature and wind speed change nutrient requirements dramatically and these impacts are not linear.  In addition, as daily temperatures decrease the time cattle spend grazing also decreases in spite of increasing energy needs,” Scheaffer says.  In a trial where daily temperature ranged from 32 F down to -40 F cows decreased their grazing time from 9.0 hrs./d to 5.5 hrs./d and that corresponded to 26.6 lbs./d of dry matter intake down to 15.0 lbs./d (Adams et al.  JAS.  1986;  62:1240).  

“To compound issues, the decrease in time grazing was compounded by a decrease in forage quality,” Scheaffer says. “Supplemental feed is needed during these sorts of changes during the winter months.”

SweetPro Premium Supplements offers a lick block supplementation program that is designed with the producer’s budget in mind. This program complements the forage that the producer has available, whether it is being fed or grazed.  

“Our program offers eight different products or formulations that are built for the livestock producer’s budget.  Or rather, to dial in the level of intake preferred for the herd,” Scheaffer says. SweetPro’s program allows the producer to target 1.0 lbs./d (0.75 to 1.25 ) of intake and then make adjustments, if needed. Those adjustments are primarily due to forage quality and availability.  

The SweetPro Program also allows the producer to dial in product consumption while not having to hand feed the product, as it is in a free-choice lick block. These products range from 16 to 30% crude protein, 3.5 to 5.0% crude fat, with a complete vitamin/trace mineral package, with salt included.  

As Scheaffer explains, the SweetPro Premium Supplements intake targeting formulations have been a work in progress. These adjustments have come about due to changes in forages and the production cycle of 2021)is a classic example that exemplifies the unexpected.  

“The beef industry is experiencing significant to severe drought over a large area,” Scheaffer says. ‘The impact of drought on forage quality and availability is profound and one formulation is not appropriate in all situations, thus SweetPro Premium Supplements offers a program for supplementation rather than a product,” Scheaffer says. Secondly, SweetPro has added an enhanced form of active garlic-derived compounds to its program of formulations that repel external parasites. These formulation have been primarily been used throughout the grazing season in an effort to control flies, but the garlic-derived compounds have an impact on repelling a broader range of external parasites than just flies.  

Carmen Grissom, marketing manager at Vitalix, Inc. points out that winter supplements have come a long way and continue to do so. “We are learning more and more about increasing the fiber digestion in cattle through nutrition ingredients such as yeast, as well as the importance of mineral and vitamin supplementation,” Grissom says.

Vitalix offers a few different options for winter supplementation—all containing products from Diamond V organic trace minerals from Zinpro.

“The #1 Conditioner tub is the lowest consumption tub we have for the winter at 1/3lb -1/2 lb. consumption,” Grissom says. “It provides 21% protein as well as 6% fat.”

The #3 Performance tub is Vitalix’ highest all-natural protein tub with 30% protein, 4% fat. This tubs consumption is ½ lb. to 1 lb. per head per day. The #9 Hi-Pro is the company’s highest protein tub available containing 40% protein with 23% being natural and the remaining 17% being N.P.N. with a fat content of 6.5%.

“This tub is very effective when feeding on corn residue with excess corn,” Grissom says. “Our #10 Breed Back line is a great option when you are breeding in the winter it has 18% protein 9% fat. These tubs are rich in Omega 3 fatty acids from Flax seed. In addition, the #28 Natural is a 28% protein with a 5% fat this tub is great for low protein, low quality forages and the  #30-13 has 30% protein with 17% being natural and 13% coming from NPN with a 4% fat.”

Injectable supplements are another avenue that livestock producers are interested in. One such injectable is Multimin®90, a prescription required product.

As Elfrieda Havenga, technical services veterinarian at Multimin® USA explains, trace minerals are important for reproduction, health and proper response to vaccines and Multimin®90 offers multiple independently published university studies that indicated that Multimin®90 supports reproduction, health and vaccine response in cattle.

“Multimin®90 is not intended as a replacement for trace minerals in an oral feed – it supports a well-designed oral feed program that follows NRC recommendations and the legal selenium limit,” Havenga says. “Stressed animals have decreased appetite, which means reduced trace mineral intake. Typical stressful times for cattle are around calving in cows/heifers and breeding in heifers/cows/bulls or during handling of calves and yearlings at branding, weaning, transporting and feedlot receiving time.”

Inadequate trace mineral supplementation and large variations in oral mineral intake may also negatively impact the trace mineral status. Antagonists such as sulfur, molybdenum, iron and calcium in feed and water may impair absorption of orally consumed trace minerals. The trace mineral requirements of cattle are also not static and change during their production cycle and also during times of stress.

“When the trace mineral status of cattle declines, immunity, enzyme functions, anti-oxidant levels, growth and fertility are compromised,” Havenga says. “One way to rapidly increase the trace mineral status of cattle is through use of an injectable trace mineral supplement such as Multimin®90.”

Mistakes To Avoid
There several key factors to consider when identifying the best type and form of supplement herds need. Archibald says that the time of supplementation is something to consider.

“Ranchers see better results when the supplementation period is long enough for the herd to be in optimal health, but not so long that producers can’t remain profitable. Make sure whatever winter supplement is chosen, that it is high quality and not wasting money on a supplements that a rancher won’t see results from,” Archibald says. “It’s been said before that ‘you get what you pay for,’ this is very true when it comes to livestock feeds and supplements.”

It is important to keep the body condition score of your cows at a healthy level. Winter supplements also are crucial to the unborn fetus.

“By supplementing properly, it ensures that the nutrients transfer to the fetus and then allows it to remain healthy in the last trimester of pregnancy in the cow,” Archibald says.

A common mistake livestock producers make when supplementing production beef cows during winter variations is using a supplement that doesn’t complement the forage being used.  

“The lick block form of supplementation allows to beef cow to consume the supplement in multiple meals or snacks throughout the day,” Scheaffer says. “This form of consumption optimizes rumen fermentation and nutrient utilization.”

And remember, that winter time supplementation is not only about the need for protein. Production beef cows also need readily available energy sources. The key is that those energy sources have a fermentation pattern in the rumen similar to the protein sources that are also delivered by the supplement.  

“This brings into focus the concept of supplement components that are fermented in the rumen at similar rates,” Scheaffer says. “Also, the benefit of SweetPro Premium Supplements is that the sources of energy and protein in our lick blocks are dried distillers grains + solubles (DDGS) and condensed distillers solubles (CDS). These ingredients deliver nutrients that are fermented at a rate similar to forages, thus these nutrients and the ingredients that deliver them complement a forage based diet.  Our goal is to complement and optimize the diet the livestock producer is has available and is using.”

Gisleson adds that when margins get tight due to low cattle prices, producers may be tempted to cut costs.

“However, mineral supplementation during the winter months has been shown to help optimize performance toward the final periods of gestation – which can have an impact on not only the cow, but also the calf’s future health,” Gisleson says. “I recommend that producers pay attention to BCS (body condition scores) of their herd in the winter and adjust nutritional needs accordingly. Making sure that they have an effective mineral supplementation program in place is just one of the keys to managing nutritional needs of cows.”

It is difficult to estimate the protein intake of cattle unless hay tests are done to see where they need to be in protein supplementation levels. “If they are fortunate to have a high protein hay, they don’t need to feed the #9 Ho-Pro, they would have better results feeding one like the #10 Breed Back or the #1 Conditioner,” Grissom says.

Archibald also says that when choosing a winter supplement, make sure that products contains chelated trace minerals. “A chelated mineral has an amino acid bound to it which gives it the needed protection to make its way from the rumen to the small intestine for maximum absorption,” Archibald says.

 And always check the tags to see what’s really in the supplements you are purchasing. “Make sure, whatever product it is, that it contains chelated trace minerals, that all ingredients are all natural, and doesn’t contain any chemical hardeners or cheap protein sources,” Archibald says. “All protein needs to be plant based. When you supplement your herd with a quality supplement program like Key-Lix, it is an investment you will see a return on investment.  Increased calving weights, weaning weights, and your herd’s overall health.”