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Which Tub is Better?

Photo credit: Western Livestock Journal, April 23, 2024

I received an email this week from a cow calf producer. He wanted to know which of the six tubs he could purchase would be best to use.  Calving had just started.

When comparing the tubs, the first thing to evaluate is expected intake. In these products, intake ranged from 0.05 to 0.75 kg (0.8 ounces to 12 ounces) per day. To calculate the expected nutrient intake, multiply the expected intake in kg by the concentration of each nutrient. This provides a comparison between the products. Also, calculate the cost per head per day by price based on expected intake in kilograms or pounds.

Some products did not contain protein. Others had only natural protein (canola meal etc.) while others had a Non Protein Nitrogen (NPN) component, which is urea. Natural products should be fed to calves under 450 pounds. Their digestive system cannot handle the NPN.

If NPN is present in the product, it should not provide more than 20% of the protein in the ration. Feeding a minimum of 3 pounds of grain provides soluble carbohydrate which is required to improve NPN use in the ration. Meeting protein requirements improves overall feed intake and animal performance.

Some product labels indicated that chelated trace minerals are in the product. But some were not clear on the percentage that are in chelated form. There is research that indicates that no more than 35% of the trace minerals should be in chelated form.

There are other items to consider prior to purchasing a supplement. Size of cows, body condition score, stage of pregnancy, temperature, and wind all impact nutrient requirements.

Before any rations can be built, knowing feed inventories, number of animals, and length of feeding season is critical. Feed test results are the backbone of building a balanced ration.

Putting out any supplement or mineral without this information may or may not meet animal requirements. 

For additional information on providing tubs for supplementing nutrition for your cow herd, contact Barry at 403-741-6032 or


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