Trace minerals – What you see is not what you get

The Indian dairy sector has grown to enviable heights over the past few decades and there still lies a vast potential to be explored.  Behind the overall huge success we have achieved, are several lacunae, which, if taken care of well, can contribute to a much higher degree of success to the sector, and profitability to the farmer, while also ensuring better product quality to the consumer.  One such weak-area is the trace mineral nutrition of the dairy cow.

Small mistakes-bigger repercussions

The modern dairy cow, thanks to the untiring efforts of the geneticists, nutritionists and the humble noble veterinarians, has got an enviable genetic potential for production and reproduction.  However, repeated cyclic process of heat, conception, fetal growth, parturition, colostrums and milk production, keep a constant high demand on her physical and physiological resources.  The specific nutritional demands vary with each stage.

Trace Minerals - What you see is 1

Inter-mineral interaction

Quite a number of minerals exert a certain negative influence on the absorption/ retention of some other minerals.

Trace Minerals - What you see is 2

Anti-mineral factors (Oxalates) in feeds and fodders

The fodder material may contain varying quantities of Oxalates (is an anion from organic acids). They bind cat ions (positively charged ions such as Calcium, Zinc, Manganese, Copper, Iron, Cobalt and Chromium) present in the inorganic mineral sources and making them unavailable to the animal.

It is noteworthy that most of the common fodders, including paddy straw, other straws and stovers, sugarcane tops, and grasses like Napier and some legumes contain significant levels of oxalates which tend to bind the cationic minerals (Zinc, Manganese, Copper, Iron, Cobalt and Chromium) present in the inorganic mineral sources.

These are fed in considerable quantities to the dairy cows.  Hence, oxalates are an important issue to be tackled in dairy cow nutrition.

Organic Minerals are the way!

Organic minerals are minerals biologically complexed with biochemical molecules such as amino acids, peptides, and proteins.  They are electrically neutral and hence are absorbed swiftly and without any interaction among themselves.  Thus availability is assured. This is one of the reasons for significant improvement in performance of animals when organic minerals are used in the feeds.

In studies comparing minerals from various sources and organic minerals, the organic minerals have been shown to have the highest bioavailability.  Additionally, the incidence of disorders like mastitis, laminitis and infertility were also lesser in herds partially/fully maintained on organic mineral supplements. Over the past few years, several trials all over the globe have clearly demonstrated the benefits of organic minerals in dairy cows under different feeding regimes with higher inclusion of oxalate rich fodders.

The benefits of organic mineral supplementation include

  • In the Production Segment
  • Better milk solids content
  • Reduction in the Somatic Cell Count
  • In the Health Segment
  • Reduction in hoof disorders/ laminitis
  • Reduction in mastitis
  • In the Reproduction Segment
  • Less days to ‘first service’ and conception
  • Less number of services per conception


Organic (Bioplex) trace minerals play a critical role in maintaining proper fetal growth, reproductive function, immunity, control of mastitis and laminitis.  Especially under stressful periods like transition stage, the requirement of minerals will be much higher than the regular requirement.  It is not enough just to give more minerals, but it is essential to ensure a higher bio availability of the minerals for optimum health and also productivity in the next lactation.  Where mineral antagonisms and anti- nutritional factors such as oxalates present in feeds and fodder are a risk, and in situations like dry period, pre-parturient period, calving stress, pre-breeding time, and lactation in high-yield animals’ supplementation of organic (Bioplex) minerals is highly advisable.

*Prof. G. Devegowda, Nutritional Biotechnologist – Animal Sciences. 

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