With seemingly endless options on the market, it can be difficult to determine whether you are picking the right lick tub to fit your livestock’s requirements. While there are several viable ways to supplement minerals to livestock, including loose mineral provided free choice or into a total mixed ration, injectable options or mineral fortified pellets, this article will focus on lick tubs specifically.

When evaluating lick tubs available on the market, you should first consider what your herd’s needs are. Are they grazing a lush alfalfa pasture or primarily grass? Are they close to calving or growing heifers? Do you want to supplement more protein into their diet or is your focus only on providing minerals? With questions like these in mind, you can begin to determine what sort of tub would be best for your operation. For example, a cow in late-gestation eating only grass hay may not be meeting her protein requirement depending on the grass species in that hay. Providing a lick tub containing additional protein of around 20 to 30 per cent may help cattle in this situation reach their protein needs. If providing additional protein and calcium to cattle grazing stand corn is your goal, a high-protein and high-calcium tub would be best for you.

There are a few types of mineral tubs available to producers on the market such as pressed, poured and low-moisture tubs. Daily consumption of the tub is estimated based on its hardness. Pressed blocks or tubs are typically the softest of the three which allows for greater intake of the tub, though they are more prone to weather damage. Pressed tubs are typically formulated using feed mill byproducts such as distiller’s grains with expected intakes of between 0.5 to 1.0 kg per day. Poured tubs are a molasses-based formula containing a mineral and vitamin premix, with added protein and fat and are hardened through chemical reactions. These tend to be more weatherproof but will dry out over time if not consumed. The expected intake of poured tubs is similar to pressed tubs at around 0.5 to 1.0 kg per day. Low-moisture tubs are molasses and oil-based. As the mixture is heated, moisture is vacuumed off. Minerals, vitamins and protein are added in, poured into the tub and then the tub is cooled. When set, this product will pull moisture from the air, creating a soft surface that livestock can consume. Because only the surface of the tub is consumable, this reduces the animal’s intake of the tub to between 0.23 to 0.3 kg per day. This type of tub is also resistant to weather damage. With these tub characteristics in mind, you can better evaluate which tub will work best for your operation. For example, if you are comparing the nutrient values of a pressed tub to a low-moisture tub, you may want a higher amount of minerals and vitamins in the low-moisture tub as it will have a lower expected intake.

It is important to remember that while lick tubs are an effective way to supplement livestock on low-protein forages or provide some level of mineral and vitamins to livestock, there is still the risk of deficiency. During late gestation or lactation, low quality grass hay and lick tubs will likely not be sufficient to meet protein requirements of the typical beef cow. It is also necessary to consider that not all cows will intake the recommended amount. Some may over-consume, some may under-consume, and some may not touch the tub at all. Intake of the supplement should be monitored to track whether actual intakes are meeting targeted or expected intakes. Contact your regional livestock and feed extension specialist with any questions related to mineral supplementation to ensure your herd’s needs are being met.

To hear Glenda-Lee's conversation with livestock and feed extension specialist Rikki Wilson click on the link below.