Trace Mineral Supplementation: Can Less Actually Mean More?

Trace minerals are key to improving livestock performance, but what is it about organic trace minerals that makes them more beneficial?

CRYSTALYX® Brand Supplements

It’s no secret that trace minerals play an instrumental role in improving animal health and performance. Zinc, manganese, copper, cobalt and selenium are of particular importance to ruminant species and are involved in even the most basic of cellular functions. We should remember that we must first feed the rumen in cattle, but fortunately, trace mineral nutrition generally isn’t lacking there. The real benefit of providing improved trace mineral nutrition comes into play after the rumen in the small intestine, so while we always want to feed the rumen initially, it’s typically with nutrients that provide energy, protein and nitrogen. Alternatively, our goal with trace minerals is to get them into the bloodstream, which requires first getting them into the intestine, where they can be absorbed.

So, once we understand that this critical area of nutrition shouldn’t be overlooked, how can we determine the best practice for trace mineral supplementation? And does the old adage of “less is more” actually ring true here?

Inorganic versus organic

Typically, if an inorganic trace mineral is found in an animal's diet, it’s because we put it there. Trace minerals that exist as the animals would find them in nature are considered organic. One of the most important things to note about organic trace minerals is that they don't contain a charge, so they're much more neutral as they travel through the rumen and into the small intestine for absorption.

Essentially, organic minerals are more bioavailable than their inorganic counterparts. Additionally, they don't have any known negative effects. As time goes on, we're discovering that inorganic trace minerals can have negative effects on animals through the fostering of chronic oxidative stress; they're basically creating free radicals, which are unstable atoms capable of causing cell damage that can lead to illness and aging.

While the concept of organic trace minerals has been around for some time, total replacement technology (that is, taking out all inorganics and replacing them with organics through feeding programs like CRYSTALYX® Blueprint® self-fed supplements) has not. Consider advertisements from the 1950s, with doctors recommending different brands of cigarettes, which we later realized were responsible for a whole host of major health problems. Today, we couldn't possibly imagine a doctor doing such a thing. Similarly, there will likely come a day when we look at inorganic trace minerals the same way. Though they're not quite as bad as cigarettes, we now understand that there are drawbacks to feeding inorganic trace minerals that we weren’t really looking for previously, and these drawbacks are becoming increasingly more obvious.

The total replacement technology advantage

The CRYSTALYX Blueprint feeding program is designed to be utilized year-round. As previously mentioned, it involves the total replacement of inorganics with Bioplex® organic trace minerals, which closely resemble the trace minerals found in nature. A second notable feature is the removal of inorganic trace minerals, oxides and sulfates. CRYSTALYX Blueprint also offers the option to add other cutting-edge Alltech® technologies, such as Actigen®, Integral® A+, FEB-200™ or Fibrozyme®.

One aspect that truly sets this program apart is the lower levels of trace minerals on the label. When inorganic trace minerals are used, we know that only a small percentage of them will actually be absorbed by the animal, so we end up feeding them at much higher levels. Alternatively, with our organic Bioplex minerals, we know that they are absorbed at a much higher percentage, so we can feed them less. Additionally, by conserving the amount of trace minerals that we're feeding, less trace minerals are excreted, making this a much more environmentally friendly option.

When it comes to trace minerals, less can actually mean more for your cattle. With several CRYSTALYX Blueprint products to choose from, your local CRYSTALYX dealer can help you choose the right product to meet your herd’s specific needs.