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Mineral Matters

Johnson County’s Jim Phipps provides Co-op minerals to get premiere performance from his cattle
Story and photos by Hannah Nave Lewis 5/26/2021

Story and photos by Hannah Nave Lewis 

When flies arrive on the farm, so does stress. Not only does the producer suffer as he or she wonders how much damage the flies will do to the herd, but, more importantly, the pesky insects create a stressful environment for cattle, which ultimately affects the bottom line. 

Jim Phipps says there are no secrets to his success with his beef cattle. It simply comes as a result of his care for his animals and good advice from folks like those at his local Co-op, Tri-State Growers Inc., in Mountain City. He concentrates on providing his animals with high-quality forages and supplementing with Co-op minerals to help them get the most out of their diet.

A Johnson County native, Jim has not always been a cattleman. In addition to his farm, he runs a thriving ground work and excavating company as his primary means of earning a living. But when he got into the cattle business in 2011 after buying the first 40 acres of his current farm, he discovered he had a love for not only improving the land but also caring for livestock.  

“I’ve been here in Mountain City my whole life, and it’s a quiet, peaceful place,” says Jim. “Farming here suits my wife, Debbie, and me perfectly. We love it, and we just want to get better all the time.” 

As opportunities became available, Jim continued to buy tracts adjoining his initial 40-acres to increase the size of his farm. The business began as a side hobby, but soon developed into a prosperous venture. After much meditation and discussion, the couple immersed themselves in the cattle industry. 

“We bought the adjoining farm, cleared 200 acres of land, and set it all in grass,” Jim says. “We built our barns and redid the fencing on the entire property within about two years. Debbie and I are now building a house here.” 

Today, the Phippses run 120 head of commercial cattle, along with Angus bulls, to market at Tennessee Livestock Producer sales in the spring. 

The couple love taking care of their animals and spending time together on horseback around their picturesque property. Most of that acreage is used for pasture and hay. The Phippses produce 700 to 800 bales of high-quality timothy and orchardgrass hay annually on the rolling terrain, which provides most of their herd’s diet.  

“We put a lot of effort into maintaining our herd,” says Jim. “We bring them in to get their vaccinations and medications twice a year, keep bulls and cows separate outside the breeding season, monitor and treat common illnesses, and keep minerals out all the time.”

Early on, Jim turned to his neighbors at Tri-State Growers Inc. in Mountain City for nutritional advice and products for his cattle. The staff’s recommendations included following a year-round mineral program that featured Co-op Foundation Hi-Mag Cattle Mineral (#675MA) and Co-op Supreme IGR Cattle Mineral-CTC 5675 (#96643MA) minerals, along with other varieties as needed. The program helps his herd achieve its potential on the forage-based diet, he says, and the cattle have responded well to the program. 

“Proper nutrition is what keeps the cows healthy and performing well,” says Jim. “The cattle seem to perform better on grass and hay when they have mineral supplement. I don’t have to feed the cows much extra in the winter because of how well they do with the hay and mineral program.

More about minerals

A well-planned mineral supplementation program can improve your cattle herd’s weight gain, fly control, and overall health, says Tennessee Farmers Cooperative (TFC) Feed and Animal Health Sales Manager John Houston. 

“Co-op minerals are formulated based on Southeastern forages,” explains Houston, a 33-year Co-op veteran. “There is no question that if you are in the beef business, then feeding mineral is worth it. If just one cow doesn’t get bred due to mineral deficiency, then you have lost the battle. If one cow dies in the early spring from grass tetany, then you have lost. Feeding a good quality mineral to a beef herd is the best insurance money can buy.” 

Co-op minerals are created to 

fit any herd depending on need 

and time of year. Co-op Supreme and Ultimate Minerals include Availa-4, which ties an amino acid to important trace minerals like zinc and copper to allow for better absorption and utilization by the animal. In addition, Co-op Supreme and Ultimate minerals include organic sources of many of the minerals which are also utilized by the cow more effectively and efficiently. 

“Many people switch minerals depending on the time of year,” says Houston, also a cattleman. “In the early spring, many folks feed a Hi-Mag product to prevent grass tetany. Then later in the spring, they will move to a mineral with a fly control product such a Altosid IGR. In the late fall or early winter, they will change to a straight pasture mineral.” 

Houston says a Co-op Supreme mineral (#678, #638, or #96622) is always good for general use.

“However, if I’m in the seed-stock business and doing lots of AI (artificial insemination) or ET (embryo transfer) work, I would use a Co-op Ultimate Mineral product,” he says. “For calves on pasture, a Foundation product such as #663 would be fine. There are also special-use minerals for particular situations like preventing Anaplasmosis and such.”

Houston acknowledges that so many mineral options can be daunting but encourages producers to consult with their local Co-op feed specialists.

“Your feed specialists will start by asking you some important questions,” says Houston. “Are you wanting to sell bulls, replacement heifers, or calves at the sale barn? Are you using a bull or all artificial insemination? What is your forage quality? Will you provide other feed supplementation?” 

Once these questions are answered, the Co-op staff can match a product to your situation.

“Feeding a good quality mineral should be a practical decision and done to provide adequate mineral supplementation to the animal based on daily requirements,” says Houston. “In some cases, adequate could be a basic Co-op Foundation product, but in most cases, it would mean feeding a Co-op Supreme or Ultimate product. It all depends on your farm goals, management, and forage quality.” 

Learn more about the varieties and specifics of Co-op’s mineral lines at 

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