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Tips for Selecting a Mineral Supplement

by Dr. Katie VanValin, Assistant Extension Professor, University of Kentucky

1) Come with a plan: Doing your research before ever getting to the feedstore can greatly assist you in selecting the best mineral for your operation. It can be over whelming trying to decipher a mineral tag in the store, but taking some time to look over products online before you go can allow you to come with an idea of what you are looking for.


2) Price doesn’t always equal quality: I spend a lot of time discussing mineral supplements. I’ve found that there is a wide variety in both quality and cost associated with mineral. Unfortunately, paying more doesn’t always mean getting a better-quality mineral; but on the other hand, you can find a good quality mineral without breaking the bank! It is not uncommon for producers to tell me they are paying over $50 dollars for a bag of mineral, but I also know producers that can purchase a good quality mineral for half that price.


3) Buy in bulk if possible: It might be possible for a local feed mill to mix mineral for you and offer discounts for bulk quantity. Check with local suppliers to see what bulk discounts available and what minimum quantities are required. It is generally recommended to only purchase 3-4 months of mineral at a time because the vitamins included in mineral products lose activity over time. Many producers may not be able to utilize enough mineral to make a bulk order feasible, but working together with other producers in your area to split the order can be a solution.


4) Guaranteed analysis: This section of the mineral tag states how much of each mineral is in the bag. However, the ingredients section may list additional minerals that are not shown in the guaranteed analysis. In this scenario, you won’t know how much of those minerals are included in the bag. The values shown in the guaranteed analysis are based on target intake. For example, a mineral formulated for 0.75 oz. per head per day could have values that are 25% higher than a mineral formulated to be consumed at 1 oz. per head per day. Make sure when comparing values in the guaranteed analysis that minerals have the same target intake. The target intake is usually stated in the “feeding directions” section of the tag.


5) Organic or chelated trace minerals: Organic or chelated trace minerals are trace minerals that have been shown to have greater bioavailability compared to their inorganic counterparts, meaning for every mouthful an animal consumes more of that mineral is getting absorbed and utilized by the animal. Inorganic sources of minerals are essentially the mineral as it has been mined from the earth, whereas organic or chelated minerals bind a mineral to a carbon containing molecule, usually an amino acid. While greater bioavailability is good, unless your animals are at risk of developing a deficiency for that specific mineral it probably isn’t necessary to supplement with an organic or chelated source. However, for a mineral like selenium where deficiencies are relatively common and the FDA limits how much selenium can be supplemented, a more bioavailable source can be important. Research shows a blend of inorganic and organic or chelated sources is often better than either source on their own. Looking at the ingredients section, the inorganic source of selenium is typically sodium selenite, whereas the organic source of selenium would be listed as selenium yeast.


6) Avoid excess salt: Salt drives intake of mineral supplements. Minerals are not palatable, but livestock do have a desire to consume salt and will consume mineral to meet that need. When formulating mineral supplements, salt is used to control intake of the mineral. Salt blocks are generally 95-99% salt, whereas complete free-choice minerals may contain 15-20% salt. The issue with salt blocks is that even if they contain some trace minerals, livestock are unable to consume enough of the product to meet their mineral requirements. Another common mistake is to provide a mineral that is formulated to meet the salt requirements of their animals, but also put out a salt block. In most cases this additional salt is unnecessary and can limit how much of the mineral the animals consume, creating the opportunity for deficiencies to develop. Follow all label directions for your mineral supplement, and limit additional salt sources to ensure your animals are consuming the mineral provided.


While this may not be an all-encompassing list of things to consider when selecting a mineral supplement, these tips can be used to assist you in selecting mineral that works for your operation. Remember, “An expensive mineral is not always a good mineral, and a cheap mineral can be expensive”.


Dr. Katie VanValin, Assistant Extension Professor, University of Kentucky

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