BROOKINGS -- Extension beef cattle specialists from South Dakota State University, North Dakota State University, Montana State University and the University of Wyoming are now accepting registrations for the educational series, Mineral Nutrition for the Beef Cow Herd. Started in South Dakota in 2017 and extended to North Dakota in 2018, the program was spurred by an increased interest in grazing mineral nutrition.
"I am excited about the opportunity to expand this program into Montana and Wyoming to reach a larger number of beef cattle producers and help them make positive changes to their mineral program, health of their cattle and the profitability of their operations," said Adele Harty, SDSU Extension cow/calf field specialist. "This program has evolved, and improvements have been made every year to address the challenges and concerns brought forth by participants. As a result, this program provides hands-on, individualized assistance to ranchers that can make a meaningful difference to their operations."
"Mineral supplements may cost producers between $20 and $50 or more per cow per year. While minerals are a small component of beef cow diets, they are critical for a variety of functions in the body," said Janna Block, NDSU area Extension specialist, livestock systems. "This program gives producers more information about specific mineral challenges on their ranch and how to deal with them effectively to increase value and efficiency of mineral supplementation."
In 2020, the educational sessions were transitioned to a virtual format, which is being maintained this year -- providing the opportunity to expand to a larger geographical region and reach a larger group of producers. The June sessions will provide basic knowledge about mineral nutrition along with tools to help producers successfully monitor mineral consumption and make adjustments to increase consumption.
The second part during the summer includes the submission of forage and water samples to Ward Laboratories, which has partnered with Extension to provide a discount for participants to get their samples analyzed. Once the Extension personnel receive the results, they will work with the participants to interpret the results and determine what changes could be beneficial to the operation.
Harty said the third component that is critical to the success of the program is the ranch visits.
"This provides an opportunity for the participants to share their specific situation and challenges with the Extension personnel one-on-one to find solutions or simply fine-tune what they have been doing," Harty said.
The series concludes with educational sessions in the fall, where all of the information that has been shared over the previous five months is brought together in an applied format.
To date, the Mineral Nutrition for the Beef Cow Herd series has drawn participants from 79 operations, plus 22 industry and Extension personnel from South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota, Colorado and Illinois.
"This program is unique in that it will provide producers an educational workshop where participants will not only learn the importance of mineral supplementation in beef cattle, but they will also receive individual ranch visits that will allow for evaluation of their current mineral program, testing of feed and water samples, and ultimately development of an effective mineral program for their individual operation," said Shelby Rosasco, University of Wyoming Extension beef specialist.
The program is open to beef cattle producers in South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana and Wyoming. Surrounding areas are welcome; however, the ranch visit component of the program may be virtual.
To register, South Dakota producers can visit the SDSU Extension Events page. Producers located in other states should reach out to Janna Block, NDSU Extension at 701-567-4323 or Janna.Block.edu; Shelby Rosasco, University of Wyoming Extension at 307-766-2329 or srosasco.edu; or Megan van Emon, Montana State University Extension Beef Cattle Specialist at 406-874-8286 or megan.vanemon.edu.
This year registration has been reduced to $130 per operation thanks to a donation from Micronutrients, a Nutreco company. This fee includes the first forage and water analysis and travel to the ranch by Extension professionals.
The first webinar sessions will be held on June 8, 10, 15, 17 and 22 from 7:30-9 p.m. Additional webinars will be held in the fall, with dates to be announced in the future.
"I usually describe mineral programs as insurance policies. You probably won't see deficiency 24 hours after running out, but if a stress event occurs (blizzard, drought, etc.) and you cut your mineral program due to expense, you will see issues down the road," said Van Emon. "Minerals aid in stress mitigation, and without them you can run into problems."