Mineral Vitamin Supplementation


Minerals and vitamins, while accounting for a small percentage of dietary requirements, play a very important role in animal function, such as bone development, muscle contractions, and nervous system and immune function. Growth and fertility can be compromised if a good mineral balance is not maintained. Dietary mineral sources typically include forages, concentrate feedstuffs, mineral supplements, and water.
Mineral requirements are typically classed as macrominerals and microminerals (trace elements). Macromineral requirements are usually expressed as a percentage (%) of the total diet, while micro mineral requirements are generally expressed as milligrams per kilogram (mg/kg) or parts per million (ppm). There is any number of mineral interactions which can result in minerals either tying up or making other mineral elements unavailable, causing imbalances.

Nutritional Disorders Related to Mineral Imbalances

Mineral imbalances (toxicities or deficiencies) can trigger nutritional disorders in animals. Typical examples include grass tetany, urinary calculi, white muscle disease and milk fever in cattle. While these disorders can sometimes produce dramatic signs, mineral imbalances are quite often unnoticed or overlooked because only subclinical signs are present.
Some identifiable signs of mineral, vitamin shortages or imbalances include loss of hair around the eyes and back, discolouration of the coat, ill-thrift, in-fertility, swelling of the joints, scour, poor conversion and growth below their genetic potential. Less obvious signs can result in reduced productivity or conversion rates in both cattle and sheep, ultimately resulting in increased costs to the farmer.
Farmers should consider mineral supplementation at the grass as a mineral deficiency is often quite prevalent in soils and concentrate intake is often reduced or not included in the diet. In summary, an appropriate intake of minerals and vitamins is essential for productivity and health. In selecting a mineral and vitamin supplement, consider the class of animal, age, weight, breeding status, forage conditions, mineral and vitamin levels in feedstuff and water sources. We recommend blood sampling to determine status within the herd.

For more information please consult your veterinary surgeon.


Calcium (Ca) is the most abundant mineral in the animal. Required for development and maintenance of teeth, blood clotting, membrane permeability, muscle contraction, nerve impulse transmission, heart regulation, milk secretion, hormone secretion and enzyme activation and function. Vitamin D is required for calcium absorption.

Deficiency – interferes with normal bone growth in young animals and can cause rickets and retarded growth and development. In adults, it can cause brittle bones.

Milk fever occurs as a result of calcium deficiency and requires instant supplementation. The balance of minerals can be more important than quantity. Calcium recommendations are expressed in terms of calcium to phosphorus ratio (Ca:P), where 6:1 approx is ideal, with a range of 1:1 to 4:1 being acceptable.

Phosphorus (P) is required for skeletal development and maintenance, normal milk secretion, muscle tissue building, cell growth and differentiation, energy use and transfer, efficient food use, membrane formation and function of many enzyme systems.
Toxicity – causes urinary calculi.
Deficiency – reduces growth and feed efficiency, decreases dry matter intake, lowers reproductive performance depresses milk production and causes weak and fragile bones.


Magnesium (Mg) is important for enzyme activation, glucose breakdown, genetic code transmission, membrane transport, nerve impulse transmission, and skeletal development.
Toxicity – Generally, magnesium toxicity is not a problem.
Deficiency – causes excitability, anorexia, increased blood flow, convulsions, frothing at the mouth, prolific salivation, and soft tissue calcification. Young animals can mobilize magnesium from bone, but adult animals can’t so require regular and adequate supplies in the diet. Grass tetany is characterized by low magnesium levels.

Potassium (K) is the third most abundant mineral in the body, Potassium is involved in acid-base balance, osmotic pressure regulation, water balance, muscle contractions, nerve impulse transmission, oxygen and carbon dioxide transport in the blood, and enzyme reactions.
Toxicity – Potassium can be very high in lush grass contributing to grass tetany onset.
Deficiency – reduced feed intake, lowered weight gains, rough hair coat, and muscle weakness. Body stores of potassium are low, but forages are good sources.

Sodium (Na) and Chlorine (Cl) are the components of common white salt and are important for maintaining osmotic pressure, controlling water balance and acid-base balance and carrying glucose and amino acids. Animals crave salt and will consume more than needed when supplied.

Sulfur (S) is a building block in several amino acids and B vitamins along with other organic compounds. Sulfur functions in detoxification reactions and is required for growth and normal cell function.

Toxicity – causes restlessness, diarrhea, muscle twitching, and labored breathing.

Deficiency – reduces feed intake, depress growth, decreases copper levels and results in weight loss, weakness, salivation, and death. Sulfur in feedstuffs is found largely as a component of protein.

Microminerals (Trace Elements)

Selenium (Se) plays an important part in enzyme function and in thyroid hormone metabolism. The functions of vitamin E and selenium are interrelated. Diets low in vitamin E may require selenium supplementation.

Toxicity – causes lameness, anorexia, sore feet, cracked and deformed hooves, liver cirrhosis, kidney inflammation, and tail hair loss.
Deficiency – can lead to white muscle disease. Calves may experience compromised immune response, reduced thrive, weight loss, and diarrhea.

Cobalt (Co) functions as a component of vitamin B12. Ruminants are able to synthesize vitamin B12 if cobalt is present.
Toxicity – Generally not an issue as animals are very tolerant to cobalt.
Deficiency – Depressed appetite and reduced growth performance or weight loss. As cobalt is not stored, regular supplementation is required particularly if soil levels are low and manganese level are high. Cobalt supplementation is especially important in young lambs.

Copper (Cu) is an essential component of enzyme function.
Toxicity – Supplementing with too much copper or contaminating feeds with copper could result in copper toxicity especially in sheep. The liver can store copper but Molybdenum, sulfur, and iron levels in the diet affect copper levels.
Deficiency – can be a problem resulting in anemia, reduced growth, loss of hair pigmentation, changes in hair growth and appearance.

Iodine (I) is a key component of thyroid hormones involved in energy metabolism.
Toxicity – reduces weight gain, lowering feed intake, and causing coughing and nasal discharge.
Deficiency – enlargement of the thyroid (goiter). Goitrogenic substances in feeds suppress thyroid function and can affect iodine requirements.

Iron (Fe) is a critical component of haemoglobin and myoglobin, two proteins involved in oxygen transport and use. More than half of the iron in the body is in haemoglobin. In addition, some enzymes either contain or are activated by iron.

Toxicity – diarrohea, acidosis (digestive tract disturbance), hypothermia, reduced weight gain, and reduced feed intake. Iron depletes copper and can contribute to copper deficiency.
Deficiency – causes anemia, lethargy, lowered feed intake, reduced weight gain and pale mucous membranes. Severe parasite infestations which cause blood loss can lead to iron deficiency. Iron requirements are higher in younger animals.

Manganese (Mn) is important for normal skeletal development, growth, and reproductive function.
Toxicity – growth performance and feed intake are reduced.
Deficiency – skeletal abnormalities, irregular estrus, low conception rate, abortion, stillbirths and reduced birth weights.

Molybdenum (Mo) supplementation is not a practical concern.
Toxicity – results in diarrhea, anorexia, weight loss, stiffness, hair color distortion reduced weight and lower conception rates. Copper and sulfur work against molybdenum in the body. Molybdenum contributes to copper deficiency, and copper can reduce molybdenum toxicity.
Deficiency – Rare, not an issue.

Zinc (Zn) plays an important role in immune system development and is a crucial component of many important enzymes that function in nucleic acid, protein, and carbohydrate metabolism.
Toxicity – not of concern.
Deficiency – can cause listlessness, excessive salivation, swollen feet, scaly lesions on feet, tissue lesions, hair loss and slow healing.


Vitamins are classified as either water-soluble or fat-soluble. Water-soluble vitamins include the B complex and vitamin C. Fat-soluble vitamins include A, D, E, and K. Rumen bacteria can produce the B complex vitamins and vitamin K. Vitamin supplementation is generally not as critical as mineral supplementation. Vitamins A and E are the vitamins that should receive the most attention as they are the ones most likely to be deficient.

Vitamin A (retinol) is the vitamin most likely to be deficient. It is essential for normal vision, growth, reproduction, skin tissue and body cavity lining cell maintenance, and bone development. While it is not present in plant material, its precursors (alpha carotene, beta carotene, gamma carotene, and cryptoxanthin) are and these are converted to vitamin A in the animal. Vitamin A and beta carotene play
a role in disease protection and immune system function.
Deficiency – reduced feed intake, rough hair coat, night-blindness, fluid in joints, slow growth, low conception rates, abortion and stillbirths. More likely in animals fed high concentrate diets. Calves who don’t receive adequate colostrum or are stressed are at the highest risk of vitamin A deficiency.

Vitamin D forms include ergocalciferol (vitamin D2) found in plants and cholecalciferol (vitamin D3) found in animals. Vitamin D is necessary for calcium and phosphorus absorption, normal bone mineralization, and calcium mobilization from bone.

Toxicity – signs include calcification of soft tissues, bone demineralization, decreased appetite, and weight loss.
Deficiency – causes rickets where bones do not use calcium and phosphorus normally. Animals do not store vitamin D but supplementation is not absolutely necessary as it is made by the animals exposed to sunlight.

Vitamin E (alpha-tocophorol) serves as an antioxidant in the body and is important in membrane formation, muscle structure, muscle function and plays a role in disease resistance. Selenium is closely linked with vitamin E and animals with white muscle disease often respond to either vitamin E or selenium supplementation.

The Growvite Range

The Growvite Range of nutritional supplements provide a balanced formula of chelated minerals, vitamins and trace elements essential for optimum thrive and performance. The range which is molasses based includes Growvite Forte, Growvite Calf, Growvite Sheep,  Growvite Lamb, Multi Birth and CowAid. All our Growvite products are manufactured in a GMP compliant facility thus ensuring consistently high quality as standard. GMP is a European Pharmaceutical Quality Manufacturing Standard. Our products are proven on Irish farms for over thirty years.

Trial Results

Trials carried out at the University of Wales showed Growvite Sheep to increase the number of live lambs born by 22%. Similar results are demonstrated in cattle.

Full trial results available on request.

View our full range of Univet Growvite Products

Mineral Vitamin Supplementation Summary