Licks for the Dry season

The primary goal of licks is to supply nutrients to animals that are deficient in grazing. A secondary goal will be to assist the grazing animal in making better use of the available grazing material, such as veld or hay, etc. Eventually, all this should lead to increased production kg/ha, reproduction and ultimately profitability.

Protein supplementation on low quality roughage.

During the dry season (summer rainfall area) the main nutrients that are in short supply in grazing, are protein and trace minerals. This is due to a decline in the protein content from 14 – 17% in the growing season, to 3 – 4% in the dry season. On top of this, digestibility declines drastically during the dry season. The effect of supplementing protein during the dry season on reproduction of animals is indicated by the summary of research shown in Table 1.


From Table 1 it is clear that protein supplementation can increase the calving percentage from between 12% to 27% on low quality roughage. This fact should be weighed up when the economical feasibility and management of an enterprise is investigated. Normally the cost of supplementation is a fraction of the increase in profitability due to increased calving percentage. Even with increasing cost in raw materials and the subsequent increase in supplementation cost, these figures are decisive in favor of protein supplementation.

Trace Mineral Supplementation

With supplementation of protein the average calving percentage of a herd can increase to 80%. In order to go beyond that to 95% and higher, the supplementation of well balanced trace minerals is important. Trace minerals plays a very important role in all the metabolic processes of a ruminant, and is specifically related to fertility and reproduction. Awareness of the impact of trace mineral deficiencies on performance and reproduction, is the first step to understanding the importance of supplementation thereof.

The following graph shows the impact of trace mineral deficiencies on animal performance.


This graph indicates that by the time we see clinical symptoms of trace mineral deficiencies, the animal are already at 20% of its required trace mineral status. By this time the animal has shown a decline in immunity, enzyme function, growth and fertility. Treatment (corrective feeding) at this stage is too late to have an impact on performance in the same year, and this loss will be reflected in the economic performance of the herd.

The better, wiser route to follow is to supply trace minerals, on a regular basis, through licks. Make sure that the supplement you are feeding is registered as a protein and trace mineral supplement – to achieve this. Also take note that very old stock (older than 6 months) might have lower levels of trace minerals and specifically Vitamin A, as indicated on the bag/label, as they have a limited shelf life.

Prolick products, is providing 75% of the animals total need for trace minerals at minimum recommended intake levels, for most trace minerals, and 100% for Se while supplying no Fe (which is in abundance). It is recommended that this will be supported by injectable trace minerals twice a year, once before the dry season and again before mating season.

Antagonists for Trace Minerals

It is also important to know that there are several nutrients antagonistic to trace minerals (inhibiting the utilization of trace minerals) in the animal feed industry. Normally these nutrients are required for growth and metabolic functions, but needs to be limited to levels where their antagonistic functions are limited. Such nutrients are Ca and S. Ca are found in Feedlime, which is used in abundance in most licks due to its low cost and high density, and could have a negative effect on trace mineral utilization and performance. Calcium is limited to a maximum level of 3:1 in relation to P (Phosphorus) in Prolick products, to limit antagonism. Sulphur is needed for bacterial functioning but is also limited in the Prolick series to a ratio of 10 – 14:1 in relation to N (nitrogen).

Rumen stimulation

A secondary effect of supplementation, (specifically NPN sources, and in conjunction with an energy source) is the increased functioning of the rumen bacteria. Increased functioning of the rumen bacteria, results in a higher dry matter intake and also an increased digestibility of the dry matter consumed. That means that the animal eats more of the available veld, and of that veld, it utilize more. Table 2. shows the effect of a rumen stimulating lick on dry matter intake and digestibility.


This is a critical fact in supplementation that is often overlooked and undervalued. This is not only valid for low quality grazing, but rumen stimulation also improves the utilization of better quality grazing such as summerveld / pastures.

When and how much to supplement?

Protein supplementation needs to happen as soon as the quality and nutritive value of the natural grazing starts to decline. For most of the summer rainfall area the decline in protein quality starts as early as January / February (when the grass start to make seed). A decline in animal condition (as result thereof) starts within 30 days. This is when supplementation of protein needs to start, to limit losses. Tradition however dictates supplementation to start only after the first frost appear, which could be as late as May.

Starting too late with protein supplementation, could cause the animals to loose all the condition gained through the summer, before it can be physically observed. One way to solve this problem is to make use of a transition lick such as Summerphos P9, with added protein.

Another important factor is to make sure that the animals does not have a salt hunger before offering them a protein lick. If they do have a salt hunger, they might over consume a protein lick, resulting in excessive intake and urea poisoning. If animals had free access to a phosphate lick, they should not have a salt hunger. An alternative would be to feed animals plain coarse salt for a couple of days before offering them Winterbreker readymix or to make a 50:50 mixture of salt and Winterbreker Readymix for a week or two.

How much protein to supplement is a function between the body condition score of the animals, and the availability of grazing. Supplementation should never replace grazing and always supplement grazing. As a guideline beef cattle needs between 170 – 220g protein/animal/day supplemented for maintenance. If we standardize on 200g of protein, that implies an average intake of 475g of a 42% protein lick such as Winterbreker Readymix.

Obviously, in practice that would not be the norm throughout the dry season as veld declines steadily and the feeding requirements of the animals increase as they near calving. Staggering lick intake is always a good practice and the following guideline can be followed.

March – April: 250g Winterbreker Readymix – delivering 105g protein/animal/day,
May – June: 400g Winterbreker Readymix – delivering 168g protein/animal/day,
July – August: 500g Winterbreker Readymix – delivering 210g protein/animal/day,
Sept – Oct: 600g Winterbreker Readymix – delivering 252g protein/animal/day.

The last two months are very critical, as the animals should be close to calving, and needs more nutrients. Winterbreker can be mixed with grain, 50:50 and be fed at 1kg/day as a production lick during this time, if the condition of the animals is not to satisfaction. During these months lick intake could easily increase to 800g/day.

Not monitoring lick intake, could have a big impact on the cost of supplementation, without bringing additional benefit to profitability. Animals should be allowed to loose 0,5 body condition score during the dry season. Steaming up the cows with a Production Lick, before the mating season could induce the tempo and onset of ovulation for the next mating season.

Lastly, be sure that there is sufficient and sustainable green grass in the spring, before animals are taken of protein supplementation and moved back to Summerphos P9. Moving animals to early could see huge losses in weight and body condition right before the mating season, which is not desirable.

Prolick Products are available nationwide, and are produced by Meadow Feeds at their mills in Paarl, Port Elizabeth, Pietermaritzburg and Welkom. For more information call any of their sales managers or technical advisors.

Date published: 2008-05-21

Jurie Naude

Publication: N/A