Supplements in Brazilian´s Cerrados (Savannah)

Although minerals are essential for the nutrition of all living things and mineral nutrition involves the physicochemical attributes of the biologically important mineral elements. These attributes affect the interactions among soil, plant, microbe and animal, including problems of relative supply of the requirements and the availability of requisite elements from the feed sources.

Brazilian´s savannah occupies the major area designated to beef cattle exploration. There are about 204,000,000 Ha, 127,000,000 Ha have all possibility of agriculture, but there is a rangeland and 35,000,000 Ha are occupied with pastures and they are on very poor soils in fertility producing forages with problems to animal nutrition. This kind of forage is the main feed source to savannah´s livestock, and it has a great variability in mineral and protein contents.

This problem has been considerated the major factor of low production and reproductives levels in Brazilians savannah livestock. The knowledge of this is very important because the animal supplementation responses depend very much the forage composition, availability, animal management and the kind of mineral supplement which will be used.

Brazilian Savannah´s Soils

Source: Brazilian Agriculture Research Company - EMBRAPA 1998.

Many elements not required or required only at low levels by plants are necessary to animals in more substantial amounts. Conversely, grasses have higher needs for some elements than animals. Grasses intake of essential elements is a function of their availability in the soil and nutritional problems occur in free-ranging ruminants depending on the supply of nutrients from the pasture or range

Feeding supplements increase in different locations witch can modify or obliterate nutritional problems resulting from mineral deficiencies.

The table shows the needs of mineral supplements for the Brazilian savannah forages

Nutrient Needs* (% of DM) Level often found (% of DM) Total of analyses (%) Needs of supply *
Calcium 0,30 0,20 65 slow
Phosphorus 0,16 0,08 72 high
Magnesium 0,10 0,18 96 very slow
Sodium 0,08 0,02 100 very high
Copper 0,0008 <0,0004 85 high
Zinc 0,0040 <0,0020 96 very high
Iron 0,0050 0,0090 96 slow
Manganese 0,0040 0,0050 95 very slow
Cobalt 0,0010 0,0002 85 high
Iodine 0,00008 trace - very high
Selenium 0,00001 trace - very high
  • According to NRC 1996
  • DM ( Dry Matter)

  • These values were found in more than 3,000 researches works of CNPGC - EMBRAPA ( National Beef Cattle Research Center of Brazilian Agriculture Research Company ) and more than 4,000 analyses of Animal Nutrition Laboratory of COBRAC (Brazilian West-Center Agriculture Cooperative ). There is no information about Sulfur and some trace elements like chromium and nickel. Their needs are very questionable.

    The sulfur exigencies has relation with the nitrogen supply, not with the dry matter intake.

    With a technical point of view the mineral element that has a major importance in supplementation is the sodium, but if we have an economic look the phosphorus is more important than salt. This element have a great signification in supplements price, about 60% of total cost.

    The intake of mineral supplements are definided by the among of sodium (in the salt form) and it has a main function in palatability of the product.

    The animals need an equilibrated mineral mix and there are many companies doing animal mineral supplements.

    However, there is an enormous contrast between minerals supplements in market. Certly more than a hundred kinds of this. The follow table shows a few examples of products.

    Some mineral supplements in Brazilian market.
    Levels in element per kilo (g/kg)
    Phosphorus 87,600 87,000 87,000 87,000 80,000 90,250
    Calcium 16,780 160,000 114,000 120,000 150,000 130,625
    Zinc 8,767 2,900 4,500 3,600 4,500 2,880
    Copper 2,191 1,000 1,700 1,500 1,600 1,500
    Cobalt 0,210 0,050 0,085 0,200 0,210 0,210
    Iodine 0,118 0,100 0,121 0,150 0,180 0,126
    Iron 1,168 2,000 3,135 1,800 - 1,680
    Manganese 1,462 0,500 1,100 1,300 1,400 1,404
    Magnesium 2,800 5,000 7,000 - - 13,260
    Sulfur 21,467 24,000 15,000 - 12,000 19,000
    Selenium 0,015 0,020 0,015 0,012 0,027 0,013
    Sodium 158,000 111,000 100,000 - 144,400 178,784
    - - - - - - -
    Sum A 11,286 4,050 6,406 5,450 6,490 4,716
    Sum B 5,445 7,520 11,250 3,112 1,427 16,357
    Source: Brazilian West-Center Agriculture Cooperative COBRAC

    To make the understanding of this differences easier, we made a somatory among trace elements with high and low needs.

    The sum A is the high needs elements and the sum B the low needs, than we can say if sum A is higher than sum B more adequate is the product, and how much will be the difference among both, better will be the product.

    The price, normally is the main factor to make a decision of buy. This view isn’t the better choice and often price and quality are opposite things.

    The choice of the mineral supplement will be made by the main characteristics:

    All this factors are very important, but hardly ever the farmers make choices in this order, and they change the importance rank and put price at first item.

    Brazilian beef cattle livestock has been a strong economic activity in the country and every change in beef cattle market affects the mineral supplements production. Brazil has about 160,000,000 of cattle. Although we don’t have an official number, the mineral supplements market is estimated by the apparent consumption of the dicalcium phosphate. The average of dicalcium phosphate in mineral mixes is about 40% and the national production is about 450,000 ton/year.
    The biggest fraction of mineral supplements production are very concentrated in a few companies. A unique company has 30% of national market, another 30% are distributed in 10 companies and the rest are distributed in 2800 small and regional companies.

    From this number we can calculate the market’s size If we understand a consumption per captaabout 80 g/day with 40% of dicalcium phosphate, we have required 1,900,000 ton/year. If we have only 450,000 ton/year, than only 23% of our livestock received adequated levels of mineral in his diet.

    This problem may have an easier solution with the importation of dicalcium phosphate and other trace elements.

    From these information, we see that the minerals supplement and its raw material are a very large space to increase all the country.

    Rogério M. Costa is graduated in Animal Science , with MSc in Ruminant Nutrition and Tropical Forage Production by University of São Paulo - UNESP, specialist in Marketing, Industrial Director of Brazilian West-Center Agriculture Cooperative COBRAC and Beef Cattle Production Consultant.