The main objectives of a successful beef enterprise are good reproductive efficiency of breeding stock, good growth rates of calves off the dam’s milk and then off grass, and finishing in order to meet market demands. Meeting these objectives depends on good nutrition and management practices. A critical time for maximising profits is 60-80 days pre- calving through until 60-80 post- calving. This period encompasses the last trimester of pregnancy, calving, peak lactation and the subsequent breeding season. For a beef cow to be productive, she must maintain her body condition, give birth to a healthy calf without difficulty, and produce enough milk to adequately nurse that calf through to weaning, come back in to heat promptly and conceive early. If she is to do this successfully, we need to furnish her with all the provisions to do so. This includes appropriate and sufficient nutrition including good mineralisation with Vital Nyama.
Minerals are essential for all animals. In the beef industry, important minerals include phosphorous, potassium, sulphur, magnesium, sodium, chloride, copper, zinc, iodine, selenium, cobalt and iron. Mineral deficiencies can decrease dry matter intake, impair reproductive performance, compromise immunity and therefore disease resistance and result in poor feed conversion, causing lowered daily live weight gains. Sub-clinical mineral deficiencies are much more common than realised by most farmers and are just as common as protein or energy deficiencies. This is arguably a bigger problem than clinical mineral deficiencies because without clinical signs, it is difficult to know the specific cause of the problem but the negative effects are still present.
Copper deficiency is also widespread in Kenyan livestock due to large quantities of iron in the soil here. Iron is taken up in forage and binds with copper in the rumen, making the copper in the diet unavailable for absorption into the body tissues. This results in a secondary copper deficiency, which will impair growth and production. A key consideration when selecting a mineral supplement in Kenya is to ensure there is no iron added to the formulation, which will exacerbate this problem. Vital Nyama is specifically formulated for beef animals in the Kenyan environment. It contains no intentionally added iron, to reduce secondary copper deficiency and contains three types of copper compound to combat copper "lock-up" as well as providing a wider range of minerals required to support optimal production. In feeding Vital Nyama to beef cattle it is important to monitor intake. Free-choice mineral supplementation will result in very different levels of consumption between animals, so this must be considered when feeding minerals. Furthermore mineral palatability degrades relatively quickly when left open to the elements, so strategies to ensure frequent, smaller presentations of mineral to the herd to ensure good intakes and reduce wastage are preferred. Another point to note is that genetically superior animals will have a higher requirement for minerals than those that do not grow or produce as well; if these requirements are not met, genetic potential will not be reached.
Beef cattle in extensive systems are generally assumed to receive sufficient energy and protein nutrition off pasture. There are times, however, when either pasture is not sufficient to meet their needs or particular stages that supplementary feeding may become appropriate. As mentioned above a critical period is when beef cows are calving down and raising a young cow. The health and fast growth of calves off milk production from the dam is a major determinant of calf growth. This is because calves are left to suckle at foot rather than being reared separately on calf starter rations. At such times dam condition is important and supplementary nutrition can be provided to ensure that she can produce sufficient milk for the calf without depleting her body reserves. Vital Alfa and Vital Beeta are excellent sources of protein, fodder carbohydrates and fibre as well as trace elements and due to their palatability and high intake are an ideal product to feed periodically to this group of animals during this time. Supplementary fodder of the quality of Vital Alfa and Vital Beeta can also be fed in order to fatten steers in the last few months before slaughter. The supplementation of higher protein or higher energy at these time supplies much needed raw materials for muscle growth as well as supporting rumen function with a highly palatable and digestible fodder. Due to their ease of handling and high palatability Vital Alfa and Beeta can be conveniently presented to these animals on a daily basis. Using the products in feedlots is also convenient and ensures a quality fodder component to the more grain based rations supplied under such rearing systems.