/ Everglades Station Mimeo Report 58-13 April 1i, 1958
i ; Problems Encountered in Supplying Mineral Needs
.. : of Beef Cattle in Florida
Herbert L. Chapman, Jr. and R. W. Kidder
Associate Animal Nutritionist and Animal Husbandman
There has been a great deal of research conducted during the past 30 years
to indicate conclusively the need for various mineral elements by beef cattle.
Foremost in the field of mineral nutrition have been workers at the University
of Florida. Over 25 years ago R. B. Becker pioneered work at the Florida
Experiment Station with his studies of the elements phosphorus, iron, copper
and more ,recently cobalt and molybdenum. Since that time mineral studies have
been extended at, the iain Station by G. K. Davis; at the Everglades Station
where extremely important work with copper has been conducted by R. W. Kidder;
and at the Range Cattle Station, I7here work has been and is still being con-
ducted by W. G. Kirk concerning mineral problems in that area of the state.
Much of this work has been summarized in Florida Agricultural Experiment Statio:
While the exact basic requirement of beef cattle for these minerals has nct
been easy to define, there has been sufficient work done to show the necessity
to have minerals continually available to beef cattle and also to indicate appro-.
ximately the amount which cattle should consume to guarantee continued good
production performance. The purpose of this report will not be to discuss the
requirements of beef cattle for various mineral elements but rather it will be
to discuss some of the practical problems facing the cattlemen in the feeding
of mineral to beef cattle in this area.
Importance of Mineral Analysis Tag
The analysis tag, required to be placed on commercial mineral mixtures,
indicates the minimum and/or maximum levels of the principle elements found in
the mixture and also gives a list of the ingredients which may be used to furnish
the indicated levels. It does not tell the amount of any individual ingredient
used. While somewhat limited, and perhaps sometimes misleading in the information
it reveals to the consumer, it can be used as a yardstick to judge the adequacy
of a mineral mixture.
Examples of mineral analysis tags from complete mineral mixtures reveal the
wide differences which may be found.
Some complete mineral mixtures contain too many high-calcium, low-phosphate
ingredients. This is not desirable in Florida, due to the relatively high calcivi
and low phosphorus contents found in many forages. This is particularly true in
the Everglades area, which is urderlaid with a strata of marl. In this area
there is usually a relatively high content of calcium salts in the drinking wat,.:
in addition to fairly high levels of calcium in the available forages. It is
recommended that there be a ratio of no more than two parts of calcium to one
Presented at Cattlemens' Short Course, Gainesville, April 18, 195'.
Examples of Analysis tags for complete mineral mixtures
Calcium (not more than) 18.00 17.00 13.001/ 14.002/
Calcium (not less than) 16.00 15.00 12.00 12.00
Phosphorus (not less than) 5.00 4.00 7.00 7.00
Salt (not more than) 40.00 32.00 34.00 30.00
Iron (not less than) .40 4.00 3.00 1.00
Copper (not less than) .03 .30 .10 .75
Cobalt (not less than) .01 .04 .03 .03
Manganese (not less than) .13 .06
Magnesium (not less than) 1.00 1.90
Iodine (not less than) .02 --
Fluorine (not more than) .014 .10 -- .10
Potassium Iodide .10
1/ Sandy soils
2/ Muck soils
part of phosphorus guaranteed on the analysis tag of complete mineral mixtures,
with a minimum of 6.0 percent of phosphorus.
In addition, it is recommended that complete mineral mixtures to be used
on sandy soils contain a minimum of 3.0 percent iron, .03 percent cobalt and
0.10 percent copper. For muck soils it is recommended that the mixture contain
a minimum of 0.5 percent iron, .75 percent copper and .03 percent cobalt. These
levels will provide satisfactory supplemental levels of these elements for beef
cattle, if the mineral mixture is continuously available to the cattle.
Avoid mineral mixtures which appear to have large amounts if common salt
or calcium-containing ingredients and which do not contain the recommended
levels of phosphorus, iron, copper and cobalt. There has been no evidence to
indicate that beef cattle in Florida, under practical conditions, will suffer
from deficiencies of iodine, magnesium, manganese, aluminum, zinc or potassium.
While these may be present in a mineral mixture, as contaminants of other ingred-
ients, it does not appear to be economically important to add these to beef cattle
Attached is a list of the principle mineral deficiencies recognized in
the state and some of the ingredients which may be used to furnish the needed
element. From a practical point of view the ingredients supplying a certain
element may be used interchangeably, depending upon the unti cost of the element.
Use whichever is cheapest. A mixture of the recommended phosphorus-containing
supplements, for example, does not appear to be appreciably superior to a single
material, under practical conditions.
Principal Mineral Deficiencies
found in Florida
Materials which can be used to
furnish these in a mineral mix
Steamed Bone meal
Red Oxide of Iron
l/ Higher levels of copper are required on muck soils to counter-act the
effect of molybdenum present in many forages.
2/ Iron content in forage crops on muck soil appears to be sufficiently high
to meet animals' needs. Some iron is recommended in mixture as a so-called
What is the best mineral mixture?
There is no single complete mineral mixture that is best suited for all
areas of the state. Under practical conditions the simpler the mineral mixture
can be and still adequately furnish the needed mineral, the more desirable it
is. There are many complex mineral mixtures available. Some contain laxatives,
tonics, charcoal and other ingredients. While these are not injurious, there
has been no research to conclusively demonstrate these complex minerals to be
more beneficial to beef cattle than a well designed, simply composed mineral
mixture that will furnish the needed mineral elements. Usually, under range
conditions in Florida, the simpler a mineral mixture is kept, and still be
adequate, the more economical it will be.
Another practical method of providing beef cattle salt and other mineral
elements is by mixing it with an oil meal, such as cottonseed meal. By adjusting
the amount of salt in the mixture it is also possible to control the daily intake
of the protein meal. Current recommendations from the Range Cattle Station are
Average daily Amount of Amount Amount
Meal Consumption of Meal of Common of Trace
1.0 75 15 10
2.0 85 10 5
It may be necessary for the individual cattleman to adjust the level of common
salt in the mixture in order to obtain the desired level of consumption. In
order to increase the intake of meal lower the amount of common salt, and to
decrease the daily intake increase the salt content.
Some of the disadvantages of this procedure is an inability, under range
conditions, to get all of the animals to eat the mixture. Also the mixture
may absorb atmospheric moisture which will tend to make it unpalatable.
The three-compartment mineral box is used with success in some coastal
areas. This simply has common salt, steamed bonemeal and trace minerals in.
separate compartments, allowing the animals to satisfy their own taste needs.
In studies at the Everglades Station the bonemeal became rancid unless mixed
with the salt.
Factors affecting mineral consumption
In south Florida and the coastal areas the amount of total salts in the
drinking water is often an important factor affecting mineral consumption.
Studies at the Everglades Station indicate that 600 to 1000 parts per million
of total salts in the drinking water will not affect mineral consumption, the
affect of 1000 to 2000 parts per million will be variable, and levels of total
salts in excess of 2000 parts per million will result in decreased mineral
consumption. Under the latter condition it is necessary to decrease the amount
of common salt in the mineral mixture and possibly make it more palatable through
the use of molasses, citrus pulp, or some other feed ingredient.
Records at the Everglades and other state experiment stations show that
mineral consumption decreases when supplemental feed is furnished. Under prac-
tical conditions, where the supplemental feeding program seldom exceeds 80 to
100 days, this decrease in mineral consumption will not create a nutritional
problem, if minerals have been continuously available.
Results of studies at the Range Cattle Station indicate the quality of
pasture will affect mineral consumption. Generally speaking, the poorer the
quality of the pasture the higher will be mineral consumption. Mineral consump-
tion decreases when native pastures are burned or when improved pasture is
fertilized and also in the spring when pasture forages are growing rapidly.
The palatability of a mineral mixture will affect its' consumption by
cattle. Mixtures which become rancid, contain too much common salt, or too much
phenothiazine may not be readily consumed.
One of the most important factors affecting mineral consumption by beef
cattle is the availability of the mineral mixture to the cattle. During rainy
weather, on muck soils, it is necessary to provide a rock fill around the mineral
box in order that it will be accessible to the cattle. It is recommended, under
range conditions, that cattle should not have to travel over one-half mile to a
mineral box. Locating the mineral box close to the source of drinking water will
encourage consumption. It is also recommended that mineral boxes be built low
enough to enable calves to learn to eat mineral at an early age.
However, all of these precautions are valueless unless fresh, dry mineral
is kept available, at all times. Mineral deficiencies do not occur over-night.
Research at the Everglades Station, for example, has shown that it requires
4 to 5 months to deplete adult cows of their body stores of copper if they have
had continuous access to a recommended mineral mixture. A mineral deficiency
in beef cattle is usually the result of a long, continuous absence of the re-
quired mineral element.
Advisability of Force-feeding Minerals
The adage "if a little is good, more is better" is not true regarding the
feeding of minerals to beef cattle. There is a definite danger of toxicity
from various mineral elements if too high levels are consumed. Under normal
conditions the practice of force-feeding minerals is not recommended. Some
animals will consume twice as much as they should and some not enough. Also,
most cattlemen do not possess adequate water facilities to satisfactorily con-
trol the level of mineral per gallon of water. If adequate water facilities
are available, however, drinking water may provide a more uniform means of
force-feeding trace minerals than a feed, which may not be eaten by all animals.
There are some instances when force-feeding of minerals is necessary.
Cattle fed in drylot should receive supplemental minerals in their feed. Also,
there may be individual animals which will require force-feeding of minerals
for a 2 to 3 week period in order to restore depleted body reserves. Force-
feeding under the later condition should be limited to the deficient mineral
elementss. It is usually not recommended to force-feed a complete mineral
Low-level Feeding of Phenothiazine
Acceptance of the value of low-levels of phenothiazine in mineral mixtures
has been variable. There are some indications that continuous low-level feeding
of this compound may result in tolerance to the drug being developed by the
internal parasite. More study is needed on this problem.
The recommended daily intake of this compound in low-level feeding is 2.0
grams per animal daily. The majority of phenothiazine containing minerals con-
tain one percent of the compound. At this level of supplementation it is
necessary to consume over 0.4 of a pound of mineral to obtain the recommended
amount of phenothiazine. Cattle will not consume this amount of mineral, on
Recent studies at the Everglades Station demonstrated that when the level
of the drug was increased to two and four percent of phenothiazine the mineral
consumption decreased to the extent that there was still only about one-half
of a gram of phenothiazine consumed daily per animal.
There has been a recent study in south Florida which indicated that it
might be feasible to feed a therapeutic level of this compound in molasses.
Mineral Toxicity Problems
Mineral toxicities can be classified as those occurring due to environmental
conditions and those that are "man-made". The latter occurs principally from
over-feeding of minerals and has already been discussed. The two mineral
elements in the first category, which are of practical significance to cattlemen,
are molybdenum and fluorine.
Forages grown on muck soil are usually relatively high in molybdenum.
This element has been found to emphasize copper deficiency symptoms and also
interfere with phosphorus utilization by beef cattle. Studies at the Everglades
Station indicate that beef cattle, on muck soil, should have an average daily
intake of 1/10 to 1/8 gram of copper daily. The exact requirement is apparently
related to many factors, but this level of copper intake will prevent so-called
"molybdenosis", under practical conditions.
It has also been shown that a daily intake of one gram of copper sulfate
per 100 pounds of body weight is toxic to beef cattle, thus emphasizing the
importance of not over-feeding this compound.
Probably of more practical significance, on a statewide basis, is the
problem of a possible excess of fluorine. Studies conducted at the Main Station
indicate that except for the phosphate producing areas of the state, the majority
of the native range grasses in Florida contain 0.1 percent, or less of phosphorus.
This means that cattle in this state must obtain the major portion of their
needed phosphorus through fertilization of pasture and/or phosphorus-containing
mineral mixtures. All natural phosphates in Florida contain fluorine.
The National Research Council recommends that mineral mixtures for beef
cattle contain no more than 0.3 percent of fluorine. The same group also
recommends that the total fluorine intake of beef cattle not exceed 0.003
percent of the total dry feed intake. Workers at the Illinois experiment
station have stated that 0.01 percent of fluorine in the total dry matter of
the ration is borderline in safety for cattle.
Minerals Are Not a Magic Remedy for All Troubles
While there are definite needs for specified mineral elements, in Florida,
the furnishing of these needs will not eliminate the necessity to observe other
recommended managerial practices. The response obtained from a mineral mixture
will be affected by the adequacy of other practices, such as the fertilization
practices used; the amounts and kinds of improved pasture forages available;
the ratio of cattle numbers to acres of pasture, both improved and unimproved;
and the control exercised over internal parasites. Many of the deficiency
symptoms which are so often attributed to a mineral deficiency can also be pro-
duced by a lack of feed intake or a heavy infestation of internal parasites. All
management practices should be adequate. Minerals are not a magic cure-all.
1. Keep mineral mixture composition as simple as possible and still be
2. Select mineral mixtures containing 6.0 percent, or more of phosphorus.
3. Avoid complete mineral mixtures which appear to have large amounts of
common salt or calcium-containing ingredients.
4. Higher levels of copper should be provided cattle on muck soils.
5. Avoid force-feeding of minerals.
6. Allow free access to fresh mineral at all times.
7. Locate mineral boxes near drinking water supply and no more than one
8. Have mineral boxes constructed so that mineral mixture is available to
9. Supplying a satisfactory mineral mixture to beef cattle does not eliminate
the need to observe other needed management practices.
Becker, R. B., et al. 1953. Minerals for Dairy and Beef Cattle. Fla. Agr.
Expt. Sta. Bull. 513.
Chapman, H. L., Jr. 1956. Trace Mineral Nutrition of Beef Cattle. Everglades
Stat. Mimeo. Report 56-7.
Chapman, H. L., Jr. 1957. Progress report on Mineral Investigations with
Beef Cattle. Everglades Sta. Mimeo. Report 57-14.