It is not usually possible to prescribe appropriate minerals just on the basis of symptoms, but there are situations when symptoms or signs do point to a certain mineral deficiency. For example, if the normally black hair coat of a cow is tinged with red it almost always signifies a copper deficiency. Hoof and hair problems may be associated with deficiencies of zinc and copper. Then too, certain environmental conditions influence consumption of certain minerals — some animals take more sulfur in the spring and fall when building new hair. Cattle on lush spring growth pasture usually need more magnesium.
When encountering questions similar to the one above—and knowing that an accurate diagnosis is based on good information—I immediately start asking questions.
1, What are you currently feeding? I am often amazed at the number of supplements some folks give their animals, I suspect sometime different supplements can cause problems with mineral interference. What I am looking for here, is any obvious incompatibilities or gross over feeding, Resulting in metabolic deficiencies even with adequate minerals.
2. Have you tested the water for livestock suitability and especially for nitrates
3. Do you provide separate sources of calcium and phosphorus?
4. Do you have a separate source of plain white salt available?
5. I usually ask the owner or caretaker, “What do you think is the problem?” Since I am sitting at a desk hundreds of miles away and they are right next to the animals, I believe their observation and impressions should be factored into the decision mix.
Answers to the above questions will usually identify some things to be changed or improved. Many times, that involves the removal of some of the duplicated supplements and I always recommend providing a full-array, free choice mineral feeding program.
This item was originally posted to a previous issue of Doc' Holliday's Blog on 6 July , 2018