Animal health depends upon many various elements including environment, genetics, handling, and perhaps most important nutrition.  Production animals today enjoy better balanced, healthier diets than most humans do.  Each and every ingredient is scrutinized to ensure that the animal is receiving the best possible ration promoting optimum health and productivity.  A key part of any animal nutrition plan involves supplementing the proper minerals at the proper levels.  This can be a daunting task as there are thousands of supplements and additives all claiming to give your animal what they need.  The following breaks down some commonly asked questions about minerals to help you better choose which product is best for your operation.

What are minerals?
Minerals are inorganic elements (i.e. copper, zinc, manganese) that are absorbed by plants, animals, or microbes through the soil and/or water. This is in contrast to vitamins which are organic substances (i.e. Vitamins A, D, E) created by the metabolic processes of plants, animals, or microbes. All minerals are elements. However, not all elements are minerals. Minerals needed in larger amounts by the body are called macro minerals, of which there are seven. Minerals needed only in very small amounts are referred to as trace minerals. There are ten trace minerals.

Macro Minerals Trace Minerals
Calcium Cobalt
Chloride Chromium
Sodium Copper
Potassium Iron
Phosphorous Iodine
Magnesium Manganese
Sulfur Molybdenum
  Selenium

Why are minerals important?
Every system in the body is dependent upon minerals to function properly. The immune, reproductive, hormonal, digestive, nervous, and skeletal systems are all affected by minerals. 96% of the body’s total mass is comprised of the four elements, carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen. The remaining 4% is comprised of minerals.

Why the need for mineral supplementation?
There are deficiencies of minerals in common feedstuffs. The only way for animals to receive sufficient minerals for optimum production is through mineral supplementation.

What is a chelated (ke-lated) mineral?
A mineral becomes chelated through a chemical reaction in which it is compounded with an amino acid. The amino acid, glycine, is preferred for its relative small size and resistance to rumen degradation and bacterial ingestion. The extreme stability of mineral-glycine chelates deliver them, in-tact, to the most absorptive sections of the small intestine, making them nearly 100% bioavailable.

How are minerals absorbed into the body?
The body absorbs elemental and chelated minerals differently. Elemental minerals are absorbed in the first part of the small intestine where the environment is very acidic. Chelated minerals are absorbed later in the small intestine after the bile inclusion point. They are then carried across the intestinal walls as amino acids (the building blocks of protein). As a result, Metal Amino Acid Chelates are absorbed up to six times more than their inorganic mineral counterparts.

Should I only use chelated minerals for my supplementation needs?
Use both chelated and elemental minerals to complete your supplementation programs. Take advantage of the differences in absorption sites between chelated and elemental minerals to meet your animal’s nutritional requirements.

What are the signs that my animals may be mineral deficient?
Copper
Mangy appearance of hair or coat, early embryonic death, decreased weaning weights, reduced fertility, and/or increased susceptibility to respiratory, gastrointestinal, and other infectious disease. Copper can be toxic to some animals; always read labels to ensure you use products specific to the species!!

Manganese
Young Stock: Weak at birth, skeletal defects, and/or enlarged, stiff joints.
Adult animals: Small ovaries, irregular or delayed estrus, embryonic death and abortion, low sperm count, testicular degeneration, and/or decreased libido.

Zinc
Young Stock: Stiff joints and swollen hocks, delayed wound healing, and/or skin lesions.
Adult Animals: Cystic ovaries, abnormal estrus, and/or soft, cracked hooves, testicular degeneration, retarded growth, delayed onset of puberty, and/or soft, cracked hooves.