Calcium: Why is it so important?

charolias in limestone smaller

Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body with most of it being found in the skeleton. However, its function throughout the rest of the body is varied, vital and luckily usually well regulated within the body.  As cattle producers we can run into difficulties if calcium levels are too low long term, particularly for our young stock and after calving when lactation requirements for calcium increase markedly.

Calcium is needed for bone, tooth, hair and hoof formation and maintenance, correct nerve and muscle function (including when calving) and blood clotting.  It is a component of many enzymes, vital for cellular function and is also necessary for milk production.  Needless to say it is an important mineral.

Luckily for cattle producers, providing supplemental calcium is not only easy, it’s cheap.  There’s something you don’t often hear.

Being such an abundant mineral in the body, it is also required in large amounts in the diet.  Many licks do not provide enough calcium and in fact this is also the case with many premixed mineral pellets that can be added to concentrate rations.  This is because as soon as the correct amount of supplemental calcium is added, the dose rate goes up markedly and so does the price.

Most cattle producers are better off providing macro minerals such as calcium, sodium, phosphorus and magnesium to the diet, blended as a loose lick.  Other vitamins and minerals can be offered in the typical premixed blends or licks.

It is particularly important to consider supplementing cattle with calcium

  • when are young
  • when they are old
  • at calving time and for at least six weeks after calving
  • when feeding a diet high in concentrates
  • when feeding a diet high in fat or vegetable oils

Diets low in forage, high in concentrates and/or fats and oils can reduce the availability of calcium.

Due to the fact that calcium is inexpensive, it is worthwhile to have it available to all classes of stock all year round.

One of the most available and cost effective sources of calcium is limestone.  Limestone provides cattle with a palatable, available source of calcium; in fact calcium supplied in this form can be more available than calcium found in forage.  Forage calcium is commonly found in high proportions in its indigestible oxylate form.

Cattle producers can mix their own calcium lick easily and safely simply by adding between 5 to 10kg of limestone to a bag of course salt and leaving this mixture out as a lick.  HCH Genetics have a macro mineral blend available for purchase pre-made as a loose lick for those who like the convenient option.  This lick is devoid of filler so the cattle are only being offered the minerals they need.  It is designed as an inexpensive option to provide cattle with their macro mineral requirements.  If you would like to enquire, just contact us.

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