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Evaluating seasonal variation in mineral concentration of cool-season pasture herbage

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Abstract

Pasture herbage is a major source of minerals for livestock in pasture-based production systems. Herbage mineral concentrations vary throughout the growing season, whereas mineral supplementation to livestock is often constant. The study objectives were to analyse the seasonal variation in herbage mineral concentrations in tall fescue [Schedonorus phoenix (Scop.) Holub]-based pasture with regard to beef cattle mineral requirements and to create a statistical model to predict variation in herbage mineral concentrations across the growing season. Pasture herbage was analysed from 12 grazing systems in Virginia to determine its mineral concentration from April to October of 2008–2012. The pasture herbage, grown without fertilization, contained adequate macronutrient concentrations to meet the requirements of dry beef cows through the growing season and the requirements of lactating beef cows in April. Phosphorus supplementation appeared to be unnecessary for dry beef cows given adequate concentrations in pasture herbage. A model using month of harvest, soil moisture and relative humidity explained 75% of the variation in an aggregated mineral factor. The 90% prediction intervals indicated that N, P, K, S and Cu concentrations could be predicted within 1·35, 0·08, 0·80 and 0·07% and 3·83 mg kg−1 respectively. Prediction of herbage mineral concentrations could help to improve livestock health, reduce costs to producers and limit nutrient losses to the environment.

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