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Working Ranch April/May 2016

Your minerals need to be fresh in order for these good cows to get the best out of them. Check the date, and store them properly. Although minerals do not degrade, some additives do… LENA HARBOUR To determine the age of mineral supplements, check the lot number listed on the packaging, which may include the manufacture date. If not, the seller can decode the lot number to determine when that batch was made, enabling producers to buy the freshest product possible. It is good management to feed an entire bag at once, so that half-empty sacks are not exposed to humidity and light. Store the product away from high-traffi c areas where the bag might be torn, spilling the product and inviting varmints to contaminate the contents. Extended, freezing temperatures may cause minerals to freeze in the bag, due to moisture deposited by the manufacturing process. Thawing frozen bags in a warm shop or dropping them on a hard fl oor are practical ways to loosen the granules. “More than anything else, you don’t want to waste mineral,” Hill advises. “It’s important to the animal and it’s fairly costly per unit basis.” Hill recommends pouring loose minerals into a sturdy, mineral feeder with a cover that provides maximum shade which protects minerals from damaging UV light and precipitation. Moisture causes loose minerals to develop an odorous hard crust, making it unpalatable for cattle. Plus, rain can cause mineral loss. Hill reports that researchers in Florida have measured increased copper levels in the soil beneath mineral feeders. Producers living in areas with frequent windy conditions may consider buying a weatherized mineral that has larger particles. They have an oilbased coating, which shields them from wind and rain. Some mineral formulations also have a sticky coating to control dust. “Additives, such as fl y control, add a lot of value and benefi t to the product, and they are worth it,” Hill says. “There’s got to be some management, prudence and care taken to ensure that what you think you’re buying and putting out there is what the cattle are actually getting.” Other popular mineral delivery systems for cattle include low-moisture or cooked molasses tubs, poured tubs and compressed blocks in 200-pound containers. Low-moisture blocks, by their nature, are very low in moisture (two to fi ve percent), and impervious to sunlight, which tends to stabilize vitamins and other ingredients, preventing their rapid deterioration. All blocks, when stored properly, should remain effective for a year. Researchers have tested two and three-year old low-moisture blocks, fi nding that vitamins and other fragile components are still at formulated levels. Many producers buy a two to four month supply of tubs at a time. Mark Robbins, Research and Nutrition Services Manager with Ridley Block Operations, recommends storing them in a cool, low-humidity warehouse that protects tubs from precipitation, sunlight and dust. Pressed and compressed blocks lose moisture in hot temperatures during low humidity, and can become dry and less palatable. “Obviously, you don’t want to store tubs outside,” Robbins explains. “Avoid storing in high humidity, because moisture is very detrimental to vitamins as well as the appearance of blocks or tubs. Keep pests, such as birds or rodents, out of storage facilities if you’re planning to store these tubs for more than a couple of weeks at a time.” If bird or rodent droppings are on the tub’s surface, consider cleaning the surface with an air hose. Robbins prefers washing, which removes a thin layer of material, along with all contamination. It is much easier to store products properly than to try to clean 38 I WORKING RANCH I APRIL / MAY 2016


Working Ranch April/May 2016
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