Animal Science Department


Date of this Version



Transl. Anim. Sci. 2021.5:1-9 doi: 10.1093/tas/txab007




Crossbred Angus cow–calf pairs (n = 28 pairs) at the Central Grasslands Research Extension Center (Streeter, ND) were used to evaluate an electronic feeder to monitor individual mineral intake and feeding behavior and their relationship with growth performance and liver mineral concentrations. Cows and calves were fitted with radio frequency identification ear tags that allowed access to an electronic feeder (SmartFeed system; C-Lock Inc., Rapid City, SD) and were provided ad libitum minerals (Purina Wind and Rain Storm, Land O’Lakes, Inc., Arden Hills, MN). Mineral intake, number of visits, and duration at the feeder were recorded over a 95-d monitoring period while pairs were grazing native range. Liver biopsies were collected from a subset of cows on the final day of monitoring and analyzed for mineral concentrations. Data were analyzed with the GLM procedure in SAS for mineral intake and feeding behavior with age class (cows vs. calves), intake category (high vs. low), and the interaction between class and category in the model. Correlations were calculated among cow feeding behavior and calf intake and growth performance with the CORR procedure, and a comparison of liver mineral concentrations among cows of high (>90 g/d; average 125.4 g/d) and low (<90 g/d; average 33.5 g/d) mineral intake was performed using the GLM procedure. High-intake calves (>50 g/d; average 72.2 g/d) consumed greater (P < 0.001) amounts of minerals than low-intake calves (<50 g/d; average 22.2 g/d) intake calves. Cows and calves attended the mineral feeder a similar (P = 0.71) proportion of the days during the experiment (overall mean of 20%, or once every 5 d). On days calves visited the feeder, they consumed less (P < 0.01) minerals than cows (222 ± 27 vs. 356 ± 26 g/d, respectively). Over the grazing period, calves gained 1.17 ± 0.02 kg/d, whereas cows lost 0.35 ± 0.02 kg/d. Calf mineral intake was correlated with cow duration at the mineral feeder (r = 0.403, P = 0.05). Cows with high mineral intake had greater (P < 0.01) concentrations of Se (2.92 vs. 2.41 ug/g), Cu (247 vs. 116 ug/g), and Co (0.51 vs. 0.27 ug/g) compared with low mineral intake cows, but liver concentrations of Fe, Zn, Mo, and Mn did not differ (P ≥ 0.22). We were able to successfully monitor individual mineral intake and feeding behavior with the electronic feeder evaluated, and the divergence in mineral intake observed with the feeder was corroborated by concentrations of minerals in the liver.