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Minerals: Strike the balance

Minerals - Strike the balance

Minerals: Strike the balance

I cannot emphasise enough just how important it is for you to check the mineral balance of your ration and its suitability for your herd’s level of performance, your system and the mineral footprint of your farm.

Before you click to a new page, this does not necessarily mean a higher specification mineral!

We regularly find that some (or even all) elements of the mineral in use will be too high. These should be adjusted both to save you money and to correct the supply to your herd. Copper is a classic example, we often find herds where copper is being over supplied which can be detrimental to herd performance, fertility and life expectancy of cows.

All sources of copper should be taken into consideration (cake, mineral products, boluses, forage and the rest of the ration itself). You may be thinking that “it is somebody else that is overdoing it”, unfortunately that would be the perception of most of the farmers that we end up helping to manage copper toxicity on their farm. We will happily check for you and it wont cost you a penny!!!

This often demonstrates the need for a lower mineral specification than is currently in use, so could save you money and reduce the risk of toxicity!

A cow’s daily mineral requirement depends on a number of factors, including:

  • Breed
  • Performance level
  • Local geology of the farm
  • Nutrient status of the soil (and its pH)
  • Mineral analysis of the silage.

However, the actual specification of the mineral that a herd requires will depend on the composition of the ration itself. Because the requirements of each mineral element are relatively small by comparison to the main dietary requirements, (energy, protein, fibre etc), the contribution represented by the ration can be infinitely variable. Different forages supply very different mineral profiles, with grass silage being completely different to maize silage or wholecrop, for example.

grass V maize silage

Note the distinctly low levels of all elements in maize silage on the right compared to typical grass silage shown on the left above.

Grass silage varies widely in its mineral analysis, due to local geology, soil pH and nutrient status. An analysis of grass silage is recommended. Typically, feeds such as Trafford Gold, maize gluten or rape would be very high in phosphorus, so rations with significant percentages of these feeds could potentially require a low phosphorus (but high calcium) mineral. However, rations based around grass silage, sugar beet or fodder beet are likely to be low in phosphorus but high in calcium, so will require a completely different mineral.

A 1% calcium level in a mineral costs around £1 per tonne. However a 1% phosphorus inclusion would be closer to £25, so just getting this right could be very cost effective.

Similarly, all feed components vary widely in their mineral balance. Contributions from straights (as part of the TMR, or as a blend component), can also vary significantly.

straight feeds can vary greatly in their mineral content



Mineral assessments are easy to arrange and free to farmers. Mole Valley Farmers can also organise forage mineral analysis of grass silage now, so that autumn ration calculations can be carried and organised well in advance.

For more information on Nutri-LINK Mineral Check, please speak to your Mole Valley Feed Solutions advisor, call the mineral line on 01278 420481 or email [email protected] #MVFHotTopics

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