This technical article looks at mineral supplementation.
Why feed minerals?
The main focus within dairy cow nutrition is generally on energy and protein levels in the diet to achieve satisfactory performance levels. Yet mineral supplementation is essential for most high yielding dairy cows as they will generally not get sufficient levels of minerals from their diet, so mineral status must not be ignored.
Minerals are inorganic elements that are required for proper physiological function. They are utilised in basic metabolic activity and also play an essential role in nerve function, hormone synthesis, enzyme production and cell synthesis. As such they are essential for growth, fertility and milk production.
The exact level of mineral supplementation will depend upon many factors including land type, diet formulation, cow breed and stage of lactation.
What are the issues associated with mineral deficiency?
Because of the huge range of minerals that are required by the cow it is difficult to be specific about the impact of general mineral deficiency. Indeed, minerals interact with each other, and excessive amounts of one mineral can lead to apparent deficiencies of another, even if supplementation levels in the diet appear adequate at face value.
Generally, mineral deficiency will result in animal health, production and fertility issues that cannot be explained through an alternative cause. Many mineral deficiencies can take a long time to become apparent and may cause a ‘sub clinical’ impact on production, fertility or health problems such as mastitis and lameness that is hard to trace.
It is also worth noting that excessive levels of mineral supplementation can result in mineral toxicity, something that can have serious consequences including death in extreme circumstances.
As a result it is recommended that mineral supplementation is always implemented in accordance with the recommendation of an experience ruminant nutritionist.
Not all minerals are the same…
The limits of variation permitted by the Feeding Stuffs Regulations for certain micro-nutrients are very wide where declared (or nonexistent if not declared), as shown below: