Injectable minerals enhance stocker calf health

Gilda V. Bryant
Sale barn calves are often high-risk animals. Successful stocker operators frequently rely on injectable trace mineral supplementation to increase the well-being and productivity of these cattle.

Sale barn calves are often high-risk animals. Usually, bull calves are not castrated, dehorned or vaccinated, and have rarely received mineral supplementation. The producer's goal is to promote calf health, aiming for a two-pound average daily gain.

Successful stocker operators frequently rely on injectable trace mineral supplementation to increase the well-being and productivity of these cattle.

Larry Hollis, D.V.M., retired Kansas State University veterinarian, says injectable minerals give producers a chance to improve trace mineral deficiencies.  

"The huge difference with an injectable mineral vs. oral is speed, how fast we get it into the animal so it goes to work," Hollis reports.  "We know that Multimin®'s peak absorption occurs eight to 10 hours post-injection. The majority of the product is absorbed within the first 24 hours, moving to the site of need. If there's excess above what is immediately needed in the body, it'll go to the liver, where it is stored and used over time. Multimin®90 doesn't replace a good oral trace mineral program, which calves need for maintenance."

Stephanie Hansen, Ph.D., Feedlot Nutritionist with Iowa State University, has conducted several injectable trace mineral trials. In a recent study, stockers were backgrounded in the university's feedyard on a high roughage diet, some of them receiving antagonists, sulfur and molybdenum. Sorted into separate mineral supplementation groups, Hansen found a significant boost in trace mineral status 14 days after calves received Multimin®90. Data suggests animals treated with inorganic and chelated-organic mineral blends reached the same level after 28 days as cattle treated with injectable trace minerals. The group receiving only inorganic minerals took about a month and a half to reach the same trace mineral status as the injected calves.

"We actually found that regardless of dietary antagonists, the Multimin®90 response was extremely consistent," Hansen explains. "That tells us it can be a powerful tool to quickly replace [mineral] status of animals, even when they're being fed a high-antagonist diet."

Producers often feed distiller's byproducts, however they should account for sulfur in molasses, lick tanks, lick tubs or distiller's byproducts. Sulfur can tie up copper, an essential trace mineral. Hansen recommends testing water sources for concentrations of sulfur or iron. Other antagonists, such as molybdenum, also bind trace minerals in the rumen, making them unavailable to the animal.  

"Injectable minerals can be a powerful tool to quickly improve the trace mineral status of cattle," Hansen concludes. "Producers need to have a good understanding of other products, especially selenium, going into calves when they are received. If you're a stocker operator, you need to have an appreciation for what the previous mineral status of that calf is, particularly if it received Multimin®90 recently. Be careful not to double dip on that. Definitely, read the label and follow the instructions."

David Sturgeon, D.V.M., operates a pre-conditioning yard in Cordell, Oklahoma, where he raises high-stress, commingled calves with unknown backgrounds.

"There's a good chance a percentage of them could either be below normal levels or at the low end of their trace minerals," Sturgeon reports. "Using injectable trace minerals is a good way to make sure we start that set of calves, so our vaccines perform closer to the way we expect them to. We know we can optimize their performance in terms of growth, immune function."

He advises producers to check with their local veterinarian or extension expert to learn if their area has trace mineral deficiencies. Animals with marginal trace mineral levels quickly become deficient during stress events, resulting in a poor immune response, and illness.

Sturgeon noticed trace mineral deficiency symptoms in his cattle 20 years ago. They had poor reproduction rates, and some calves experienced extra bleeding at castration, a sure sign of copper deficiency. He reports poor hair coats, slow growth rates and susceptibility to infectious disease are much more common in these calves.  In his search for a suitable trace mineral solution, he tried several products but was dissatisfied with the results.  

"I went to an Academy Of Veterinary Consultants meeting," Surgeon recalls. "Multimin® [representatives] showed their research, and I decided to try it.  Once I did, I never quit using it."

In Newcastle, Oklahoma, L.D. Barker, D.V.M., recommends injecting trace minerals in the neck, a handbreadth away from other injections.  Better yet, inject vaccinations and injectable minerals on opposite sides of the neck. Thanks to trace mineral injections, his stocker calf health program is more consistent, providing adequate immune responses in calves. He strives to enhance calf health, performance and minimize expenses.  Barker suggests operators invest on the front end to get a return on the back end.  When he first used trace mineral injections, he reduced pull rates from 50 to 60 percent down to below 17. Death losses also dropped from 12 percent to under five.

"With Multimin®90, we see healthier calves respond to the first treatment so much better," Barker explains. "We're reducing retreats by two-thirds. It's so essential for animals to overcome infection. They respond to treatment much better and are turned out quicker.  It diminishes your cost of antibiotics. I feel really good about the tools and technology we have today to minimize our issues and problems. It has reduced a lot of frustration and economic losses by having a product we know will get all those animals on the same page and maximize their response performance. It's cost-justified from that standpoint." 

A beef producer that also raises stocker calves in the Texas counties of Jones and Baylor, with the headquarters located between Anson and Stamford, explains that at $2 a head, Multimin®90 is an affordable tool for his management strategy. When his stockers reach a healthy trace mineral status, death loss is significantly reduced.

"I have experienced reduced labor from pulls and calves are going to take to feed faster and gain faster, particularly the ones that you reduced illnesses in," he reports. "In the big scheme of things, that cost is so minimal, and the returns on that animal so huge, that it is a necessary staple in my processing battery."