Francis Fluharty recently gave an in-depth presentation on management approaches to mineral supplementation at the Ohio Beef School. Fluharty is an Ohio State University (OSU) ruminant nutritionist and researcher located in Wooster. Even though his presentation was geared toward beef cattle, the principles he covered apply to all ruminant livestock, sheep and goats included. Important points that I took away from the presentation include mineral absorption, effects of mineral deficiencies, and some common mismanagement errors associated with mineral feeding. Let's look at each of these in a little more detail.

There are several important factors that affect mineral absorption. One of the most important is the source of the mineral. Oxide forms of minerals tend to be the cheapest minerals on the market. Francis said that with the exception of magnesium oxide, there is no other mineral that should ever be fed in the oxide form because of the low absorption of oxide minerals. Organic mineral forms, sometimes called chelated minerals, have the highest absorption followed by sulfate (SO4) or carbonate (CO3) forms. Another factor that affects mineral absorption is interactions with other minerals. For example, high potassium reduces magnesium absorption, high levels of zinc reduce copper absorption and low copper levels reduce iron absorption. Grinding can help to increase mineral absorption. Finally, age and nutritional status of the animal will influence absorption. Young animals absorb minerals better than adults.

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By the way, the March issue of BEEF contained the latest nutritional composition of 300 feeds commonly fed to cattle and sheep. Check out the tables here.