Mineral is an important aspect of any livestock feeding program. Of course, you don’t want to throw money away on mineral supplements – during the summer, it can be tricky to balance what your stock does and doesn’t need, since pasture is abundant during the warm season. You also want to remember that most species of livestock have different mineral requirements, so there is not a one size fits all mineral solution.


“Mineral supplementation should not be terribly difficult for either cows or yearlings, if you have a good forage for them to graze,” said Eldon Cole, livestock specialist for the University of Missouri Extension. “A mix of legumes and grasses should come very close to meeting the major and trace minerals. Of course, it’s helpful if rains are timely and keep the pastures fresh and growing.”

While a good forage stand can provide most of what your cattle need, there is one mineral that should be available to them always – salt.

There is some debate in the livestock world about what color and form the salt should be supplied in – as far as getting the most bang for your buck goes, plain white salt in either form will provide what you need. “Plain white salt will provide ample sodium. Sodium is the element that forages generally are deficient in,” said Cole. “I am frequently asked if it’s necessary to provide either a red, yellow, white or blue salt block. They are colorful, but I’ve seen no research that supports the necessity of using the colorful combo. Loose versus block form of salt is debatable and I just hope you provide one or the other, hopefully in a covered feeder. Summer heat and rain can result in leaching of the salt which is expensive.”


Mineral for sheep differs heavily from that of other stock, primarily because sheep can only tolerate low amounts of copper in their systems. If they ingest too much copper over a period, it builds up and can kill them. Many supplement companies offer lick tubs or blocks that are specially formulated with low amounts of copper for sheep. Some producers turn to mineral supplements they’ve created themselves to meet the summer needs of their flock.

“We currently give a mix of Thorvin organic sea kelp and Redmond salt to supplement the nutrients they receive from the pasture and diatomaceous earth, garlic powder and cayenne pepper to help ward off parasites,” said Kim Coulter of Peak View Farm in Seymour, Mo., regarding their sheep flock. This homemade mineral mixture is given free choice.


Goats will often do the best on a commercial mineral supplement formulated just for them. Ellen Dorsey, owner of Dill’s-A Little Goat Farm in Chelsea, Okla., said loose mineral specifically formulated for goats is the best option for her program.

“I mix it right into their feed so they have to eat it,” she said. Still other producers supplement for minerals and nutrients with natural products – Lesley and Barry Million, owners of Terrell Creek Farm, an animal-welfare approved dairy goat farm in Fordland, Mo., choose to use several different kinds of herbs in their supplement program.“

Some are fed weekly to control parasites and some are used as needed for other issues (immune boosting, anti-bacterial or anti-fungal),” Lesley said. Supplemental herbs fed at Terrell Creek Farm include black walnut hull, garlic, ginger, pumpkin seed, fennel, dandelion, oat straw, apple cider vinegar, kelp and many others. Lesley also noted that goats require high amounts of copper in their diets, which makes their mineral needs very different from sheep or cattle.

To really know what minerals your animals need in their diet this summer, experts recommend getting your forage tested. You can request an additional test to get the mineral content, which is well worth the money to establish your summertime program. “Testing your forage for mineral content will cost you around $10 over and above a regular energy (TDN) and protein (CP) test,” said Eldon.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here