Sign Up

Sign Up on DairyPulse to ask questions, answer people’s questions, and connect with other people.

Sign In

Login to DairyPulse to ask questions, answer people’s questions & connect with other people.

Forgot Password

Forgot your password? Please enter your email address and we'll send you a link to reset your password.

You must login to ask a question.

Please briefly explain why you feel this question should be reported.

Please briefly explain why you feel this answer should be reported.

Please briefly explain why you feel this user should be reported.

DairyPulse Latest Articles

Dairy Cow Supplementation: Essential Salts and Supplements in Dairy Farming

Dairy Cow Supplementation: Essential Salts and Supplements in Dairy Farming

Animals need mineral salts in small quantities but they must be present in feeds. Essential minerals for dairy cows are classified into Macro-minerals and micro-minerals. Regardless of classification, all minerals are necessary for dairy cattle’s development, production, and well-being.


Macro-minerals are those elements needed in large quantities; they are normally expressed in percentages. The major elements falling under this category include;

  1. Calcium (Ca)
  2. Phosphorus (P)
  3. Magnesium (Mg)
  4. Potassium (K)
  5. Sulfur (S)
  6. Sodium (Na)
  7. Chlorine (Cl)


Micro-minerals are needed by cows in traces and expressed in parts per million; they must be adequately supplied in animal feed. The micro-minerals that must be in animal feed include;

  1. Iodine (I)
  2. Iron (Fe)
  3. Copper (Cu)
  4. Cobalt (Co)
  5. Manganese (Mn)
  6. Molybdenum (Mo)
  7. Zinc (Zn)
  8. Selenium (Se)

Other Supplements

Apart from minerals, there are other essential supplements that play a vital role in the growth, production, reproduction, and health of the dairy herd. Different supplements include energy, protein, vitamins, and amino acids.

Energy supplements

I supplements are used. Commonly used energy concentrates include corn, sorghum, sweet potatoes, cassava, and dry distiller grains. A  well formulated and balanced feed always solves this problem.

Protein supplements

Different sources like  blood meal and brewers grain, cotton seed cake, malt sprouts, linseed, and urea-treated hay make excellent supplements. Also, Soybean meal is also perfect for supplementing and offers up to 40% Crude proteins.

Vitamins supplements

Vitamins are needed in dairy animals to boost immunity and general body functions. Dry and lactating cows should be given supplemental Vitamin A, D, and E, at 90,000 IU/day, 15,000 to 25,000 IU/day, and 500 to 5000 IU/day, respectively. Vitamin A is essential for boosting the immune system and reducing oxidative stress. Vitamin D is vital for facilitating calcium homeostasis and bone metabolism, while Vitamin E is needed for muscle control and nerve functioning.

Importance of minerals in dairy cows

Mineral salts play essential roles in cattle, but when it comes to daily requirements, dairy cows require more minerals than beef cattle. Some important mineral salts, functions, deficiency symptoms, and sources are summarized below.

MineralFunctions/ImportanceDeficiency symptomsSources/Supplement
Calcium●      Bone formation
●      Improves metabolic functions
●      Proper skeletal and smooth tissue functioning
●      Facilitate nervous functioning
●      Milk fever /acute hypocalcemia
●      Muscular weakness after calving
●      Increased heart rate
●      Loss of consciousness
●      Sternal recumbency
●      Legume fodder
●      Tree leaves
●      Maize fodder
●      Calcium supplement salts    
Phosphorus●      Building strong bones and teeth
●      Fat, carbohydrates and protein metabolism
●      Proper functioning of body cells
●      Stiff joints
●      Muscular weakness
●      Chewing foreign materials
●      Bone weakness/deformities
●      Reduced fertility
●      Poor appetite
●      Sodium phosphate salts
●      Mono/dibasic phosphate salts
●      Steamed bone meal
●      Ammonium phosphate
Magnesium●      Nerve conduction
●      Muscle contraction
●      Reduce milk fever
●      Boost animal health
●      Staggering
●      Stiff gait
●      Ears pricked
●      Flared nostril
●      Nervousness
●      Magnesium oxide
●      Dried yeast
●      Wheat bran
●      Linseed meal
Sulfur●      Synthesis of amino acids
●      Allows optimal rumen bacteria growing environment
●      Cation and anion balancing
●      Excess weight loss
●      Excessive salivation
●      Death
●      Loss of appetite
●      Stunted growth
●      Leguminous Forage Elemental sulfur
●      Sodium sulfate
●      Potassium sulfate
Sodium●      Body electrolyte balancing
●      Nerves functioning
●      Muscles functioning
●      Improves cow appetite
●      Normal cellular hemostasis
●      Reduced water intake
●      Pica (eating non-nutritive materials)
●      Reduced milk production
●      Eating dirt
●      Drinking/licking urine  
●      Sodium chloride salt
●      Sodium bicarbonate
●      Natural pasture  
Chlorine●      Acid-base balancing
●      Phospholipid synthesis
●      Lipids transportation  
●      Constipation
●      Anorexia
●      Pica
●      Lethargy
●      Cardiovascular depression
●      Lowered milk production
●      Sodium chloride salt  
Iron●      Blood production
●      Oxygen transportation
●      Energy metabolism
●      Component of enzymes
Poor growth Lethargy Loss of appetite Anemia symptoms (Pale membranes)  ●      Mineral salts licks
●      Iron ammonium citrate  
Iodine●      Thyroid hormone production
●      Aid in energy metabolism  
●      Irregular cycles in cows
●      Silent heat
●      Damaged backbone
●      Decreased appetite
●      Enlarged thyroid in calves
●      Stillbirth
●      Ionized salt
●      Commercial iodine supplements
●      Mineralized salt
Copper●      Necessary for hair formation
●      Blood formation
●      Ideal enzymes functioning
●      Abnormal appetite
●      Severe diarrhea
●      Poor growth
●      Rough, faded animal coat
●      Trace element mineralized salt
●      Commercial supplements
●      Barley straws
●      Foliage silage
Zinc●      Activate enzymes
●      Promote fast wound healing
●      Improves hoof integrity
●      Wound healing problems
●      Low feed efficiency
●      Slow weight gain
●      Zinc methionine
●      Zinc Oxide
●      Zinc Sulfate
●      Forages
Cobalt●      Part of Vitamin B
●      Promotes good rumen microorganism development
●      Loss of appetite
●      Decreased milk production
●      Anemia
●      Decrease fertility  
●      Barley grains
●      Sorghum
●      Lucerne
●      Mineral salts and trace mineralized salt
Manganese●      Influences estrus manifestation  
●      Promotes fetal development
●      Udder development
●      Important during ovulation
●      Reduced ovulation
●      Deformed calves
●      Miscarriages
●      Poor growth
●      Delayed estrus  
●      Wheat bran
●      Sweet potato vines
●      Sorghum straws
Selenium●      Enables absorption and utilization of Vitamin E
●      Functions of some enzymes
●      Boosts immune system
●      Retained placenta
●      Paralysis
●      Low fertility
●      Commercial supplements
●      Oil meals
●      Lucerne  

Table 1: DairyPulse Mineral salts functions, deficiency symptoms and sources

Determining dairy feed nutrient composition

Knowing the mineral composition can be complicated unless farmers formulate their animal feeds. The only way to determine feed components is through laboratory analysis. Various means can reveal the percentage composition of energy, fiber, Nitrogen and minerals.Some of the techniques are summarized below.

Analytical Technique Nutrient/mineral analyzed
Oven dryingFat, fiber and dry matter 
Muffle furnace ashingFiber, ash and acid-insoluble ash 
Analytical balance All 
Titration Sugar and Nitrogen 
Spectrometer Sugar and starch 
Kjeldahal determination Nitrogen 
Bomb calorimetryGross energy 
Atomic absorption spectroscopy Minerals 
High-performance liquid chromatography Amino acids and vitamins 

Table 2: Analytical methods for nutrient content determination. 

Recommended daily dietary intakes

Providing the correct nutrients is key to maximum production and good health. The animal requirement depends on age, productivity and other factors. Daily dietary intakes are summarized in the table below.

Calves15-55MJ/day9-12%2.4Kg/day0.06-0.08% of the diet1,000 IU/kg dry matter10-25 L/day
Heifers19-69 MJ/day17-14%2.4-10 Kg/day0.005 – 0.0010%2,500 IU/kg dry diet40 L/day
Milking cows190-240 MJ/day16-19%11-26 Kg/day, depending on the lactating stage0.23% of DM4,400 IU/kg dry diet120L/day
In calf cows10% body weight +10MJ for maintenance13-15%11-12 Kg/day0.15%4,400 IU/kg dry diet100L/day
Dry cows60 – 78 MJ/day15-16%11Kg/day0.15%4,400 IU/kg dry diet50-70L/day

Table 3: Dairy animals Recommended dairy dietary requirements.  

Factors to consider when supplementing dairy cows.

a) The limiting nutrient in a diet

The rule of thumb is only supplement when necessary and use the correct limited nutrient. Some supplements, like protein, are pretty expensive; thus, the use of Nitrogen based supplements should be precise.

Alternatively, using readily available sources of nitrogen like alfalfa, soybeans, and legume hay offer great alternatives to commercial supplements. Although local materials are ideal, some minerals are only enough for animals when supplemented through commercial mineral salts.

b) Are the available supplements readily available for cows?

Many supplements are available commercially for farmers to choose from. However, the element’s availability differs from one product to the other. Farmers should always select mineral supplements that offer maximum utilization since some compounds have the least benefits to animals.

c) Stage of production

The stage of production significantly determines the need for supplementation. Early lactating cows tend to have a high demand for energy and minerals. The less feeding and high energy demand by animals leads to a negative energy balance which calls for supplementation. In most cases, energy supplements and minerals like calcium are supplemented to keep animals healthy and maintain production.

d) Dairy animal age

Age is another factor that dictates the level of supplementation. Feeding young calves and heifers with the right feed is important to enable healthy development. Due to rapid development, young animals require a lot of energy and mineral salts to support their cellular development. Feeding the right rations and supplements ensures they attain puberty at the right age, facilitates the onset of estrus and promotes good production.


Dairy cattle supplementation is vital if feed can’t provide the required nutrients. Adding the right minerals and other nutrients to animal feed is vital for promoting a healthy herd and optimize production. Although giving dairy animal supplements is recommended, balancing the economic part of it is great to maintain farm profitability.

Related Posts

Leave a comment

You must login to add a new comment.