Thanks, EJ. I sincerely appreciate what you posted and agree totally with your statement of seeing 'dramatic results' from feeding mineral. True story for us, as well. It is amazing the problems that go away and the increase in performance that is realized when on good nutrition. Nutrition and genetics are the foundation for performance and go hand-in-hand.
Remember, partly the deal with the lower phos is that cattle eat grams not percents. So a higher percent of phos doesn't do much good if the cattle won't eat the mineral. Phos is bitter and it is hard to get a high phos mineral into the cattle. Phosphorus is the most expensive ingredient in mineral and if more is added than required, it drives the price of the mineral up. I hate to see producers pay for something they don't need. We have been on this program for going on 11 years and I can honestly tell you that we have eliminated almost every problem. Of course, our cows get fed well, we don't expect the mineral to do it alone. By fed well, I don't mean second cutting alfalfa hay either. I mean a balance of CRP hay, some alfalfa hay for protein, and grass hay. They look good and are nutritionally sound. I didn't think the day would ever come when we would calve out without losing a calf or doctoring any. That has happened last year and now this year. Believe me, after what we have been through, we never will take it for granted. We remember to count our blessings.
Sick cattle are not normal, healthy cattle are normal if you provide what is lacking in their diet, and most times it is NOT PROTEIN. 10% protein hay is good enough for a range cow. I don't think a lot of people know that. They add protein and skip mineral. Just doesn't work. I read all the things on this board about doctoring cattle. Tsk, tsk. Just getting them on good mineral could make their life easier and the cattle would do better. If I were them, I would try a good mineral program on one bunch of yearlings or cows, just to prove the benefits to myself.
Only problem with a good mineral program, is the horses don't get used as much!!!
And I agree with you about energy. Everything you read stresses energy anymore. In fact, articles now say to meet the energy requirements and the protein requirements will take care of itself. Wonder why the 'feed stores' don't read this stuff? Maybe because energy is cheap and they have made their living off of selling high priced protein.
I have a chart put out by Western Beef Producer that compares the price of protein from many sources. Boy, is that an eye-opener. According to their findings, alfalfa hay at $130/ton is the cheapest protein available. Yet, long time ranchers would choke at paying $130/ton for alfalfa, but will pay $500/ton for protein from a feed store. Alfalfa, especially second cutting should be used as a supplement to other forage, not meant as a complete diet. It is just way too rich for range cattle. If we remember to try to feed what we grow on our ranch, we can get by pretty well. Mixing different kinds of hay seems to be a real good thing to do and keep problems to a minimum.
Understand what I am discussing here is feeding cattle hay during the winter. The guys feeding cake on grass is a different matter. Cattle need extra protein to digest the dry grass. Not many ranchers do it, but alfalfa hay can be a cheaper alternative to cake, plus they get more dry matter out of the hay than they do the cake and it is usually cheaper per pound of protein. However, getting it to cows on range presents another problem~therefore the use of cake is the most practical choice.
My advice generally is "feed what you can that you raise on your ranch. Supplement only what you KNOW to be lacking, which in our area is copper, zinc and other trace minerals. One of the cheapest things you can do is run a forage test on your hay. Money spent there can save you thousands of dollars."