The price of minerals for cattle supplements has increased considerably this spring, primarily due to higher phosphorus prices, says KansasStateUniversity beef systems specialist Justin W. Waggoner. Global phosphate prices, he adds, are likely to remain high due to demand for fertilizer and higher phosphate production costs. Waggoner stresses the importance of phosphorus in cattle diets, as it is involved in numerous metabolic pathways, and is a required component for cell growth and energy utilization. Phosphorus often is deficient in cattle consuming forage-based diets and is a primary consideration in developing supplements for grazing cattle. Historically, he says, producers often have used a “one-size-fits-all” approach to mineral supplementation, providing about 12 percent phosphorous in a mineral mix year-round. This method has worked well with low mineral prices, but depending on forage availability and stage of production, could provide more phosphorous than necessary. Waggoner provides an example of a 1,200-pound pregnant, dry cow, seven months since calving, consuming 26 pounds of native grass on a dry-matter basis, that contains 0.15 percent phosphorous. If the cow also consumes 2 ounces of a 12 percent phosphorous mineral supplement, the forage provides 17.7 grams of phosphorous and the supplement contributes an additional 6.8 grams, for a total consumption of 24.5 grams per day. The minimum daily phosphorous requirement of a 1,200-pound cow seven months since calving is 13 grams per day, so the cow is consuming 188 percent of her minimum daily phosphorous requirement.

Waggoner discourages producers from eliminating mineral supplementation in response to increased cost, as deficiencies can significantly impact cattle health, reproductive efficiency and performance. Instead, he suggests working to fine-tune supplement programs to meet, but not exceed, requirements.