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home articles Herd Health |

High Phosphorous costs discourage overfeeding

published: July 27th 2018
by: Justin W. Waggoner
source: K State Extension Service
Feed and grazing costs have been the primary input costs at the forefront of many cattle producers’ minds over the past year. However, we can now add mineral supplementation costs to the list of inputs that have increased in price. Cattle mineral costs increased considerably this spring, primarily due to higher phosphorous prices. Global phosphate prices have risen and will likely continue to increase due to greater demand for phosphate in crop fertilizers and higher phosphate production costs. 
Mineral supplementation is an important component of cattle nutrition that should not be ignored. Phosphorous, a macro mineral required by cattle, is one of the most abundant minerals in the body. Phosphorous is involved in numerous metabolic pathways, and is a required component for cell growth and energy utilization. The phosphorous content of forages is relatively low compared to concentrates, such as corn. Therefore, phosphorous is often deficient in cattle consuming forage-based diets and is often one of the first minerals of consideration in developing supplements for grazing cattle. 
Historically, the one-size-fits-all approach to mineral supplementation practiced by many cattle producers, in which a common mineral supplement (12% Calcium, 12% Phos-phorous) is fed year-round in sufficient quantities to meet the mineral needs of cattle under average conditions has worked well. It can be a challenge to formulate the “perfect” mineral supplement because a number of factors, such as stage of production (pregnancy and lactation), diet, and water source, influence cattle mineral requirements. Although the one-size-fits-all approach to mineral supplementation is simple in terms of management and labor, it may also at times result in under or over-supplementation. 
For example, consider a 1,200 lb. pregnant, dry cow, seven months since calving consuming 26 lbs. native grass (dry basis) that contains 0.15% phosphorous, plus 2 ounces (57 grams) of a 12% phosphorous mineral supplement. In this scenario, the forage provides 17.7 grams of phosphorous and the supplement contributes an additional 6.8 grams of phosphorous to the cow’s diet. The total phosphorous consumption of this cow is 24.5 grams per day (17.7 + 6.8 = 24.5). The minimum daily phosphorous requirement of a 1,200 lb. cow seven months since calving is 13 grams per day. Therefore the 24.5 grams of phosphorous consumed exceeds the amount of phosphorous required at this stage of production by 11.5 grams and supplies 188% of the minimum daily phosphorous requirement. 
Traditionally, over-supplementation of minerals has been ignored because minerals were relatively inexpensive. As mineral costs increase, over-supplementation can become costly. In addition, over-supplementation of minerals presents an environmental concern for livestock producers. Many confined feeding operations (dairy, pork and beef) have made efforts to more closely match dietary phosphorous with animal requirements to reduce the phosphorous content of manure. Phosphorous excretion in manure is an environmental concern because the inorganic sources of phosphorous often used in supplements are more water soluble than other sources of phosphorous. 
Water-soluble phosphorous is more likely to be lost (leaching and runoff) when manure is applied to fields. 
Due to the recent increases in phosphorous prices and likelihood that prices of other components of commercially available mineral mixes will increase, a more targeted approach to mineral supplementation that takes into account stage of production and dietary mineral content (determined by a feed test) may become more economical. Cattle producers may also want to consider buying mineral supplements in bulk or having a custom supplement blended, provided the operation is large enough to justify the purchase of larger quantities of mineral. Smaller producers may consider combining an order with a neighbor(s) to increase purchasing power. 
Eliminating or reducing mineral supplementation is not a viable option in response to increased cost. To do so would create deficiencies that can significantly impact cattle health, reproductive efficiency, and performance. Purchas-ing mineral in bulk quantities and structuring a mineral supplement program based on cattle requirements and dietary mineral content present cost -effective strategies to reduce mineral supplementation costs without compromising cattle health, reproductive efficiency or performance.

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