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Mineral Deficiencies Need to be Considered in Cattle Deaths

Photo Courtesy Texas A&M AgriLife Extension and Research

Story provided by Texas A&M AgriLife Extension and Research

Ranchers need to keep in mind that the wrong quantities of minerals can be dangerous or even deadly to cattle, said experts from the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.

When it comes to cattle and minerals, what works for a rancher 700 miles away may actually work better for you than what works for a neighbor 7 miles down the road; it all depends on what is in your soil, supplements, feed, forage and water supply.

“There is no one-size-fits-all approach to minerals,” stressed Joe Paschal, Ph.D., AgriLife Extension livestock specialist, Corpus Christi. “What works for your neighbor’s cattle won’t necessarily work for you. There are a lot of factors producers must take into consideration.”

“Proper livestock nutrition is a key factor in your cattle’s health and productivity,” added Thomas Hairgrove, DVM, Ph.D., AgriLife Extension cattle veterinary specialist in the Texas A&M University Department of Animal Science. “Knowledge of your herd’s mineral status is fundamental to developing an optimal herd health program.”

The key to understanding individual needs centers on the total nutrition of the herd. For example, diets high in protein and/or potassium or low-carbohydrate diets can impair magnesium absorption, said Hairgrove.

He said zinc and copper need to be absorbed in a specific ratio. Excess zinc reduces the amount of copper absorbed and excess iron or sulfur can interfere with absorption of other minerals.

“In other words, an excess or deficiency of one mineral affects how other minerals function in the animal,” said Hairgrove.

Sometimes, he said, extreme cases can lead to death in a herd. So, what happens when you find a dead cow, or multiple dead cows over a period of a few months or a year? Hairgrove and Paschal hope Texas producers and veterinarians realize AgriLife Extension offers an invaluable resource.

Texas A&M AgriLife resources

Between AgriLife Extension, Texas A&M AgriLifeTexas A&M AgriLife Research, Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory and the rest of the extensive Texas A&M network, nearly any question a stakeholder has can be answered and any test that needs to be run can be done.

“We want producers to be aware that no matter where in Texas they live, there’s an AgriLife Extension county agent they can call for help,” said Grange. “We encourage ranchers to call us first when they have a problem, not last. Even if we do not know the answer, the access and resources available to us are extensive and we will know how to find the AgriLife expert who can provide the answer.”

Paschal added that “Dr. Google” doesn’t have the answers and should not be considered a reliable source and that a little testing, common sense, and best management practices can go a long way in stopping preventable deaths.


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