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Balance and Bioavailability

How do you know for certain whether the trace minerals you’re feeding are being absorbed to support health and productivity?

“Unfortunately, there isn’t a single test,” said William Seymour, Ph.D., ruminant technical services manager for Novus International. “We can measure animal performance, health and appearance, but those can be subjective and are affected environment, management and other factors. We know trace minerals are essential and can be very effective, it’s more of a question of how best to incorporate them into the diet.”

Seymour recommends taking into account balance and bioavailability when considering trace minerals.

Antagonistic compounds in feed or water can reduce the absorption of trace minerals. A poor quality water source with excessive iron or sulfates is an example. Ash in forages or high levels of sulfur in corn by-products are other examples.

The key, Seymour said, is to correctly balance the ratio of one mineral to another in the diet so they don’t interfere with the other’s absorption.

There is also a concern with feeding excess levels of these ingredients. If minerals are absorbed properly and at the right levels, there is less mineral excreted into the environment.

Minerals can also antagonize each other, which is the reason balancing them in the diet is so important, Seymour explained. “Trace minerals are needed for everything from reproduction and immune system function to metabolism and milk production – each mineral has a specific role in the animal’s body.

“The least expensive option may appear to be a good choice; however, you can end up feeding more trace minerals, with a lower percent absorption in order to maintain proper levels of trace minerals in the body tissues.

“Although it’s an ongoing debate, finding the optimum level of trace minerals for highly productive ruminant animals can best be achieved using highly bioavailable, chelated, organic trace minerals. The manufacturer should have complete quality assurance data on everything from the raw materials used to the integrity of the finished product,” he stated.

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