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.