Development of Individual Free-Choice Mineral Supplementation Program for Sustainable Grazing Management of Hawaii’s Rangelands

Project Overview

SW16-023
Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2016: $332,601.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2019
Grant Recipient: University of Hawaii at Manoa
Region: Western
State: Hawaii
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Mark Thorne
University of Hawaii at Manoa

Annual Reports

Information Products

Commodities

  • Animals: bovine

Practices

  • Animal Production: mineral supplements

    Abstract:

    Mineral supplementation is necessary to correct for deficiencies in forages consumed by livestock. Hawaii producers have struggled with mineral issues that include imbalances between calcium, phosphorous, and magnesium, and copper, iron, molybdenum, and sulfur. Because of Hawaii’s highly variable forage environments, that change across very short distances, imbalances in minerals can be markedly different between islands, ranches, and even pastures. While the relative expression of these imbalances varies across the State, in general they have led to an industry-wide depressed calving percentage, increased incidence of disease and other health issues, and reduced animal longevity. Most ranches in Hawaii use commercial pre-mixed mineral products, but these are inadequate at meeting the highly variable mineral issues. Though not widely adopted, individual free-choice mineral supplementation has been around since the 1950s. Practitioners tout its benefits, including increased performance and lower costs. This project investigates the feasibility of individual free-choice mineral supplementation in Hawaii through two separate, year-long trials testing palatability and herd performance. The data will be used to develop a decision support tool that assists in the development of operation-specific mineral programs.

    The primary purpose of this project is to: 1) compare the relative palatability and costs of individually supplied minerals (individual free-choice) to commercial pre-mixed mineral widely available in Hawaii; 2) determine if individual free-choice mineral is as effective or better at meeting the nutritional needs of range cattle as a commercial pre-mixed mineral; and 3) provide workshops and field day programming to educate Hawaii livestock producers on the importance of mineral supplementation, and assistance through a project developed decision support tool in developing a mineral supplementation program.

    In the first trial, we documented the relative palatability between a commercial pre-mix mineral ration and individual free-choice (IFC) mineral components (Copper sulfate, Magnesium Sulfate, Monosodium Phosphate, Fish bone meal, and Trace Mineral salt) offered cafeteria-style to range cattle. The trial, in cooperation with five ranches utilizing cow/calf herds grazing different rangeland ecosystems, began in February 2017. Results show that contrary to popular wisdom, the cattle on trial did, at times, express preferences for individually placed mineral components even though the commercial mix was readily available. The combined cost of the individual mineral components was $18/cow/year cheaper than the commercial mix when fed at the recommended rate.

    Mineral utilization varied widely across the ranches and consumption was less than the expected rate for the commercial mix and the individual mineral components. Availability of mineral was twice (4 oz./head/day) the recommended rate (2 oz./head/day), but consumption of all mineral (commercial mix + individual free-choice minerals) was only a fraction (16%) of the total provided. Even though the cattle on trial consumed some commercial mineral mix, they also consumed the IFC mineral components in various proportions to their availability.
    Spatial and temporal variation in forage quality across the ranches appeared to be the main factors driving selectivity of mineral components among the various herds. Aside for the trace mineral salt blocks provided, selective pressure was highest for the copper sulfate followed by monosodium phosphate and the magnesium sulfate. Consumption of the fish bone meal was variable among the herds with those in pastures of consistently low quality having the highest rate of consumption. The fish bone meal had a tendency to spoil if not consumed within a few weeks. In two herds, selectivity for the individual mineral components was variable with low to no consumption when forage quality was high. However, consumption increased in these herds when forage quality began to decline.

    In 2017 the project provided three, 2-day workshops to Hawaii producers across three counties (Kauai, Maui, and Hawaii) May 21-27, 2017. The primary focus of the field day programs was the integration of a planned mineral supplementation program for sustainable beef production. Topics included Soil Diversity and implications for Pasture Management, Mineral Supplementation Programing, Introduction to the RightRisk RSP Tool and Ananlysis of Alternatives, Forage Quality, Cattle Performance, and Carcass Quality, Hawaii Forage Finish Suitability Zones, Leucaena for Beef Production, Sugarcane Forage Selections Trials, Genetic Selection, and Grazing Strategies for Finishing Beef on Grass.

    In 2018, this project focused on providing a total of six workshops to Hawaii producers across three counties. A total of six, 2-day programs were offered in partnership with University of Hawaii – College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR) Extension faculty. In addition, three online webinars were compiled and posted.

    The onsite programs were held at Kauai: Kauai Office Building; Maui: Oskie Rice Memorial Arena and Hawai’i: Mealani Experiment Station. The RightRisk curriculum, including analytics software and presentation material, has been used in hundreds of educational workshops throughout the U.S. over recent years. This project used the RightRisk curriculum in its delivery, including a survey of participating managers using TurningPoint audience response software, a general introduction to risk and risk management, the presentation of the Ag Risk-5 covering the five sources of risk in agriculture, RightRisk Analytics risk management tools, followed by a detailed discussion of the Risk Scenario Planning (RSP) tool and the demonstration of its application via case examples.

    In the first workshop series (June 2019), participants were introduced to the RSP tool via an overview of mineral risk management alternatives: convert to commercial mineral mix in herds not previously supplemented and convert to free-choice mineral supplementation. For the second day of programming participants used the Risk Scenario Planning tool and the RightRisk mobile computer lab to evaluate for themselves the two supplementation scenarios (convert to commercial mineral mix and convert to free-choice mineral supplementation).
    In the second workshop series (October 2019), participants were introduced to the RSP tool via an overview of mineral management alternatives: convert to commercial mineral mix in herds not previously supplemented and convert to free-choice mineral supplementation. In the second day of programming participants were introduced to the Livestock Risk Protection (LRP) insurance program recently made available to Hawaii livestock producers by the USDA-Risk Management Agency (RMA). This presentation included RSP analysis of LRP coverage when applied to an example Hawaii livestock operation.

    The software and supporting materials informed participants about risk management and associated topics, such as production management and marketing alternatives. This project focused on delivery of materials in a proven, successful workshop format to Hawaii agricultural producers and interested others in cooperation with CTAHR Extension faculty. In addition to the hands-on environment of the workshop, participants were informed of the opportunity to access RightRisk Analytics tools and education materials via the World Wide Web. A web page specific to this set of programs was also referenced (Hawaii.eRightRisk.com). The workshop materials at the URL and electronic tools also made the program information available to individuals unable to attend the onsite presentation.

    A series of online webinars was compiled from the three onsite workshop series offered under this project: May 2017, June 2019, and October 2019. Presentations offered onsite were narrated and compiled for web access in both video and audio-only formats. Slides with text notes were also provided, as was a pre- and post-webinar survey to collect feedback from participants in the online format. Webinar materials were posted to a purpose-built mineral’s webinar web page (Hawaii.eRightRisk.com\minerals).

    Two technical guides were compiled to further outline and describe the two alternative mineral supplementation case studies developed under this project:
    1. Evaluating the Potential Benefits of Adopting a Commercial Mineral Mix Supplementation Program. #TG-19-12018. December 2019. Hewlett, John P. – University of Wyoming Dr. Mark Thorne – University of Hawaii Dr. Jay Parsons – University of Nebraska-Lincoln Jeffrey Tranel – Colorado State University. and
    2. Evaluating the Potential Benefits of Adopting a Free-Choice Mineral Supplementation Program. #TG-19-12013. December 2019. Hewlett, John P. – University of Wyoming Dr. Mark Thorne – University of Hawaii Dr. Jay Parsons – University of Nebraska-Lincoln Jeffrey Tranel – Colorado State University.

    These bulletins were posted in PDF format to the mineral’s webinar for access by online participants.

    The two onsite program series focused on an introduction to risk and evaluating risk management strategies, followed by practicing those skills through the use of the Risk Scenario Planner analytics tool as the organizing theme for the presentations. In the first series, presentations centered around making producers aware of risk management options, RightRisk materials, and the application of the RSP tool in evaluating the mineral risk management strategies: convert to commercial mineral mix in herds not previously supplemented and convert to free-choice mineral supplementation. A lab section allowed participants the chance to evaluate these two alternatives using the RSP tool via the RightRisk mobile computer lab. In the second series, presentations focused on making producers aware of risk management options, RightRisk materials, and the RSP analytics evaluation of two mineral risk management strategies: convert to commercial mineral mix and convert to free-choice mineral supplementation. The second day of programming introduced participants to the Livestock Risk Protection (LRP) insurance program recently made available to Hawaii livestock producers, including RSP analysis of LRP coverage when applied to an example Hawaii livestock operation.

     

    Project objectives:

    The specific objectives of the project are:

    1. Conduct two trials on five ranches across the State (three ranches Hawaii County, two ranches Maui County) over the first two years of the project (one trial each of year one and two) to: a) quantify the relative palatability of various mineral components when offered free choice compared to a commercial pre-mix mineral ration (Trial 1); and b) evaluate the performance of different herds offered either an individual free-choice minerals or a commercial pre-mix mineral ration (Trial 2).

    2. Develop a database of seasonal forage quality and mineral composition profiles for rangelands in Hawaii using the forage mineral composition data (June 2018 – June 2019).

    3. Conduct a risk-adjusted partial budget analysis of mineral supplementation alternatives and develop a computer-based mineral supplementation decision support tool (June 2018 – June 2019).

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.