Macro and micro minerals are an essential part of the diet for all farm animals. For peak health and performance, the amount of each mineral in the diet must meet the animal's needs, and must also be balanced with the quantity of other minerals. The correct balance is important, as too much of one mineral can impact the availability of another mineral. In all, there are 16 essential minerals. In our practice, we commonly receive calls about three of them.
Selenium is essential for normal growth, reproduction, and immune function. Our region of the country generally has very selenium-deficient soils, which means that forages grown here tend to be low in selenium. Each year we see numerous cases of infertility, retained placentas, and muscle stiffness of weakness due to selenium deficiency. Zinc is essential for healthy skin and hooves. We have seen a number of swine herds with lameness issues stemming from poor hoof quality due to zinc deficient diets. We also see several goats each year with hair loss due to zinc deficiency.
Calcium and phosphorus are essential for skeletal growth and lactation. The ratio of these macro-minerals is very important. The diet should contain a calcium to phosphorus ratio of about 1.5:1. If there is too much phosphorus in the diet, as is frequently the case in diets high in cereal grains, urinary stones commonly occur. Each year we see numerous cases of urinary obstructions in goats, but we have also seen this issue in cattle, sheep, and pigs.
Ideally the bulk of an animal’s mineral requirement should be met through high quality feed and drinking water. Certain factors, such as weather, soil quality, and economics may impact the quantity of macro and micro minerals available in the diet. In general, it is a good idea to supplement with a commercial trace mineral mix. Mixes are available as loose salts, blocks, or lick tubs. Animals tend to consume more in the loose form, but the tubs and blocks are often more convenient. We recommend a mix with the maximum amount of selenium.
Mixes fed to sheep should have little to no copper, and mixes fed to swine and poultry should contain much less sodium chloride than mixes fed to ruminants and horses. There are some instances where herds may benefit from a custom mineral blend. If you think that you have mineral deficiency or toxicity issues in your herd, samples of blood, tissue, or feed can highlight areas where improvements can be made. Feel free to contact us if you would like to review your mineral supplementation program.