Mineral supplementation on veld

mineral on veld

It remains unbelievable to think that ruminants (such as sheep and cattle) can use grass to produce meat and milk – something that people, pigs, or poultry cannot do! However, the nutritive value of pastures in a given area can vary greatly from season to season and will not necessarily serve the daily needs of an animal. The aim of this article is to explain the importance of mineral supplementation on veld.

The missing one

Natural pastures and/or feed consists of water, energy, proteins, minerals, and vitamins. An animal needs all these nutrients to function normally. The synergistic effect of the nutrients is also of great importance, and if any one is lacking, the animal will not be able to function optimally. That is why we say that the most important nutrient is normally the one that is lacking.

Minerals are necessary for all bodily functions, including forming structural components of bones, organs, tissue, and cells, acting as electrolytes to maintain osmotic pressure, ensuring an acid-alkaline balance, and playing a role in membrane stability. Minerals also serve as a catalyst for enzymes and hormones that regulate metabolic activities. Animals need daily mineral supplementation because mineral absorption in the digestive system is highly variable. Minerals are divided into macro- and trace elements depending on the amount required by the animal.

Macro needs

Animals need macrominerals in large quantities for body structure, the regulation of fluid balance, muscle contraction, and the optimal functioning of the nervous system. Macro-elements are normally expressed as a percentage of dry material (% DM) in the supplement or ration.

Table 1 Macromineral functions and signs of a deficiency

Calcium (Ca)Blood clotting
Activation and stabilisation of enzymes
Bone and tooth formation
Nerve impulses, muscle contraction, and cardiac regulation
Weak and broken bones
Slow growth
Decreased milk production
Phosphorus (Ph)Energy metabolism
Part of DNA and RNA
Cell differentiation
Component of cell walls and contents
Plays a role in the acid‒alkaline buffer systems of blood and bodily fluids
Poor appetite and listlessness
Poor growth and weight loss
Decreased milk production
Poor reproductive performance
Delayed immune response
Bone disorders
Potassium (K)Maintenance of electrolyte balance
Maintenance of
osmotic pressure
Regulation of acid‒alkaline balance
Enzyme activation
Nerve impulses
Decreased feed and water intake
Weight loss
Decreased milk production
Loss of hair colour and glossiness
General weakening of animals
Magnesium (Mg)Enzyme activation
Gives stability to structures
Necessary for the nervous system, muscle function, and bone mineral formation
Decrease in feed intake
Weight loss and irritability
Lack of coordination with muscle contraction and tremors
Foaming around the mouth and convulsions with sudden death
Sulphur (S)Rumen microbe protein synthesis
Important for formation and maintenance of cartilage, bone, tendons, and blood vessel structures
Decrease in feed intake Poor growth and
milk production
Poor feed conversion ratio
Sodium (Na)Maintains osmotic pressure and regulates the acid‒alkaline balance
Involved in water metabolism and the intake of nutrients
Salt cravings
Poor appetite
Decreased production
Chlorine (Cl)Involved in protein digestion
Maintains osmotic pressure and regulates the
acid‒alkaline balance
Involved in water metabolism and the intake of nutrients
Decreased intake
Weight loss
Dehydration or constipation

Small start, big win

Animals need trace elements in small quantities on a daily basis. Normally the first signs of a trace element deficiency can be seen in the health and fertility of a herd. The most important trace elements are zinc, manganese, iron, copper, iodine, cobalt, and selenium. Trace elements can be the small difference that has a huge impact on the optimal production and total profitability of a herd.

Table 2 Trace mineral functions and signs of a deficiency

Zinc (Zn)Integrity of epithelial tissue
Immune response
Cell division and recovery
Protein synthesis
Vitamin A utilisation
Abnormal skin and hooves
Bone and joint problems
Delayed immune response
Fertility problems
Manganese (Mn)Reproduction
Bone and cartilage synthesis
Immune response  
Poor reproductive performance
Bone and joint problems
Abnormal skin, hair, and hooves
Iron (Fe)Oxygen transport
Energy metabolism
Immune response  
Rare in adult livestock
Poor appetite
Heavy breathing
Delayed immune response
Copper (Cu)Immune response
Connective tissue synthesis and maintenance
Iron metabolism
Bone and joint diseases
Weak hooves
Early embryonic loss
Retained placenta
Poor hair colour
Iodine (I)Energy metabolism
Growth and development
Immune response
Poor reproductive performance
Poor foetus development
Early embryonic loss
Delayed immune response
Cobalt (Co)Synthesis of Vitamin B12
Fibre digestion (fermentation)
Low levels of Vitamin B12
Poor body condition
Poor conception  
Selenium (Se)Helps against oxidative stress
Thyroid hormone metabolism
Immune response
Reproduction problems
Poor immunity
beef cows on veld
Planning ahead for mineral supplementation on veld will ensure optimum production and profitability.

Plan ahead to ensure profitability

Supplementary mineral nutrition is often one of the most underestimated aspects in ruminant nutrition because subclinical mineral shortages are very difficult to identify.

Mineral shortages will lead to production losses regardless of the amount of energy and protein that are provided to animals. Planning ahead for mineral supplementation on veld will ensure optimum production, which will lead to increased profitability. In this way you can ensure that any shortages on the veld will not have a negative impact on your animals.

One thought on “Mineral supplementation on veld

  1. Riaan Claassen says:

    Wil graag my Vleisbees-kudde se makro – en veral mikro-tekorte bepaal.
    Bereid om die kudde vir eksperimentele analise beskikbaar te stel.

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