Ensuring stock eat your dry/mineral lick or mix


Brett Littler - Senior Land Services Officer, Livestock

We have seen a lot of cases of grass tetany across the tablelands. This has occurred in some areas that we do not normally see it as an issue. Some of this may be as a result of the lack of legume in these paddocks, others as a result of the season. With the amount of grass tetany, I have had numerous enquiries asking how producers can ensure we get these animals to eat/lick these mixes that are being supplied with magnesium in them. Generally, there a few tricks that we do to ensure that we make these mixes more appetising/appealing.

Livestock find that magnesium oxide is very bitter and not overly palatable, so this influences intake and will limit the amount of supplement consumed. Ideally, we want cattle to eat about 60 grams per day of magnesium oxide (Causmag) and in some circumstances we want cattle eating 100 plus grams per head per day. Sometimes this can be challenging, so how can we do it?

There is the normal way of treating hay with magnesium oxide (Causmag). This is done by spreading it over the hay that is being fed out or if you are lucky enough to have a feed mixer you can wet the hay and add the magnesium oxide to the mix. Cattle will consume hay and hay mixes readily. If just adding it to hay on the ground, ensure that you add more than needed to allow for some wastage. Just watch out if you are providing too much Causmag as it can cause scouring.

With purchased dry licks and homemade mixes, there are several different ways to ensure that stock are more willing to consume the lick. Generally, salt is used as an attractant in these mixes, but it also works as a restrictor. Once salt gets over 10% and animals have overcome their craving if they have not had salt for a while, we see it start to reduce intake. Salt is an important part of most mixes and I will not normally advise on playing with this as part of the mix.

So, how do we make cattle eat enough so that they are consuming the 60plus grams of Causmag per day? Over my time I have found the addition of an attractor to be very useful in making livestock consume more of the mix.  These attractors are things like grain/pellets, however you need to watch out for acidosis. I find that oats works best, protein meal like canola meal, molasses (this can be hard to mix and dried molasses is better for some to mix), dried distillers grain and I have seen some farmers use sugar. All good options and all work well.

So how do we increase the intake? Firstly, I add the attractive additive to about 20% of the mix and then I adjust this up and down till the desired intake is achieved. Secondly, once the desired intake is achieved, continue to monitor their intake as I have found it can change depending on the weather and the feed in the paddock and you may need to continue to adjust the amounts. Another tip is to place the supplement where the livestock are visiting, like a watering point or where they are camping.

Recently I have seen producers using feed mixes to supplement the magnesium. This is good but remember the rules of the amount of trough space required (60cm per cow one sided trough and 30cm for double sided) as all animals must be able to get in and consume the mix.

If you are having an issue, please contact one of our team and we can talk you through some different options. For more information please click this link Grass tetany in cattle - treatment and prevention (nsw.gov.au)

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