Mineral Madness

MineralsWhen I start researching a topic, I can really get obsessed. And such is the case with mineral supplement options for sheep. I might have just bought my bag of “sheep mineral” from the local feed store for years and not given it a second thought, had it not been for Pat Coleby’s book Natural Sheep Care. The book is a mind-boggling read, going into great depth on dozens of trace minerals, and the role each one plays in nutrition, and when deficient, in disease. When I first read this book, my reaction was “bleah!!” and I stuck it back on the shelf, because the stuff just seemed too complicated. And you would think surely the makers of my feed store mineral bag already had all this figured out, right? 😉

But what’s been nagging me from her book is her assertion that all health problems stem from mineral imbalances or deficiencies. She says “behind every vitamin shortfall, there is a lack of minerals.” She insists that parasite problems and hoof scald/rot are direct results of mineral deficiencies. This notion intrigues me, because the sheep industry is fairly complacent about parasites and foot problems. Most people, especially in our wet climate, just shrug and assume that worms and lameness are part of the deal, that you just have to fight them all the time. But, those problems are expensive, in labor, medication, stress and productivity of the sheep; so if we could minimize or make them go away via nutrition, wouldn’t that be amazing?

I started looking at the info on the back of my sheep mineral bag- the one made by American Stockman. And then I checked out the label of the goat  mineral sold at my local store, which in theory might only differ from the sheep stuff by having the addition of copper. Ah, but not so! And then Cadie, over at the EweWin blog, shared the ingredient list of her favorite mineral, Hickory Hills Ewe Plus (thanks Cadie!). I also looked up the labels for Sweetlix brand, because I know it has a very good reputation.

Wow, are they all really different! Some of this difference may be accounted for in different recommended feeding doses, but this is less important since most people feed mineral supplements free-choice. So clearly there is no agreed-upon industry standard of what’s best for sheep in a mineral supplement. And knowing that the right balance of trace minerals is just as important as the correct minimum availability of each, it makes one wonder, is the mix in my bag right for my sheep, and my forage and soil?

Some other considerations I’ve read about when comparing mineral mixes: 1) mineral oil as an ingredient may reduce or prevent good absorption of the ingredients 2) mixes that are mostly salt are costing you more money, because you’re mostly paying for table salt and the sheep have to eat more to get the minerals they need 3) sulfate forms of trace minerals usually have better bioavailability than oxide or chloride forms, which the exception of magnesium oxide.

I’m mostly leaning towards offering the minerals all separately, but if I do choose a mix, I’m definitely moving away from the brand I’d been buying, it looks very weak in comparison to the other options.


  American Stockman Mineral for all classes of Livestock Purina Goat Chow Mineral Hickory Hills Ewe Plus (Agway) [info thanks to Cadie] Sweetlix Sheep & Goat Sweetlix Super Sheep
Salt 96-98.5% 41-45% 73.62- 86.43% 18-20% 12-14.4%
Zinc 3,500 ppm 7,500 ppm 9616.36 ppm 7,000 ppm 7,000 ppm
Iron 2,000 ppm 491.44 ppm 7,000 ppm 7,000 ppm
Manganese 1,800 ppm 5602.90 ppm 7,000 ppm 7,000 ppm
Iodine 100 ppm 200.13 ppm 250 ppm 250 ppm
Cobalt 60 ppm 57.76 ppm 130 ppm 130 ppm
Selenium 30 ppm 25-30 ppm 90.06 ppm 25 ppm 25 ppm
Calcium 9-11% 0.01-0.02% 20-22% 12-14.4%
Phosphorus 8% 0.08% 6% 8%
Magnesium 1% 0.03% 1% 5%
Potassium 0.10 % 0.10% 1% 1.6%
Copper None added 1,750-1,800 ppm None added None added
Vitamin A 140,000 IU/lb 53.94 IU/lb 300,000 IU/lB
Vitamin D-3 11,000 IU/lb 0.00 IU/lb 50,000 IU/lb 100,000 IU/lb
Vitamin E 750 IU/lb 1596.69 IU/lb 200 IU/lb 100 IU/lb
Chlorine 48.59%
Sodium 25.21- 37.82%
Sulfur 0.93% 1% 2%
Niacin 2.22 mg/lb
Choline 70.72 mg/lb
Molybdenum 50 ppm
Feed rate .27 oz/day .25 – .33 oz/day unknown .5 – 1 oz/day 1 oz/day
Ingredient List

Salt, zinc oxide, ferrous carbonate, manganous oxide, calcium iodate, sodium selenite, cobalt carbonate, yellow iron oxide.

Salt, dicalcium phosphate, monocalcium phosphate, calcium carbonate, cane molasses, mineral oil, magnesium oxide, iron oxide, copper sulfate, zinc oxide, vitamin E supplement, vitaminA supllement, ferrous sulfate, ethylenediamine dihydriodide, fenugreek flavoring, calcium iodate, potassium iodide, cobalt carbonate, manganous oxide, vitamin D-3 supplement, ferrous carbonate, sodium molybdate, manganese sulfage, zinc sulfate, sodium selenite.

Salt, Processed Grain by-products, Zinc Sulfate, Manganese, Sulfate, Sodium Selenite, Vitamin E Supplement, Mineral Oil, Ferrous Sulfate, Ethylenediamine Dihydriodide, Cobalt Sulfate

Calcium Carbonate, Dicalcium Phosphate, Monocalcium Phosphate, Salt,Deflourinated Phosphate, Magnesium Sulfate, Potassium Sulfate, Potassium Chloride, Magnesium Oxide, Yeast Culture, Zinc Oxide, Zinc Sulfate, Manganous Oxide, Manganese Sulfate, Calcium Iodate, Cobalt Sulfate, Ferrous Sulfate, Sodium Selenite, Sodium Molybdate, Vitamin A Supplement, Vitamin D-3 Supplement, Vitamin E Supplement, Cane Molasses, Synthetic Red Iron Oxide and Mineral Oil.

Dicalcium Phosphate, Monocalcium Phosphate, Defluorinated Phosphate,Calcium Carbonate, Salt, Yeast Culture, Magnesium Oxide, Magnesium Mica, Magnesium Sulfate, Potassium Sulfate, Processed Grain By-Products, Molasses Products, Cobalt Sulfate, Calcium Iodate, Ferrous Sulfate, Manganese Sulfate, Manganous Oxide, Sodium Selenite, Sodium Molybdate, Zinc Oxide, Zinc Sulfate, Vitamin A Supplement, Vitamin D-3 Supplement, Vitamin E Supplement, Synthetic Red Iron Oxide, Mineral Oil.

8 thoughts on “Mineral Madness

  1. ewewin says:

    Thank you SO MUCH for putting this table together! This is a GREAT comparison. My husband had thought that the HH Ewe Plus HAD copper in it, but when I was adding the list to the comment section I told him there was NO copper. We had a friend who took a sheep to the diagnostic lab to find out why it had died, and one thing the lab report stated was that this sheep was copper deficient! A few of our sheep are in the pasture with the cow. Those sheep have access to the cow mineral block which has a lot more copper than sheep are supposed to get, but those sheep are doing well too.
    Interesting stuff,

  2. workingcollies says:

    I am wondering about the labels that specifally say “no copper added.” I assume they don’t want to say “no copper at all” because there might be some trace of it in there, coming in with the other ingredients, maybe in detectible quantities, maybe not?

    The copper is the biggest issue I’m wondering about, as I think my sheep need more, but there is no guidance (probably because nobody knows) on how much is reasonably safe. Interesting that yours have access to copper too! I’ve certainly read several accounts from people who are offering it with no ill affects. But I did read of two instances where people did have sheep experience toxicity, so it’s not unheard of either. It’s really hard to know what the right answer is!

  3. Doris says:

    Do you know what kind of copper those sheep with the toxicity had access to? and did they have adequate amounts of dolomite? Need more info on this to get a better idea of what happened, which reminds me that I’ve read about some folks that have copper pipes so their animals were actually getting too much copper, but I’m thinking they may have needed more dolomite to buffer that copper. Lots of different angles to be aware of here.
    Appreciate you covering this topic.

    • workingcollies says:

      Hi Doris
      The two people who had copper toxicity in their sheep were both using “the” Pat Coleby mix. So, the ratio of dolomite in her mix wasn’t right for their situations, apparently. I’ll look up their blogs again and link to them, I’m going to write a bit more on my copper research, when I’ve done some more.

      I have a hard time imaginging that copper pipe would deliver enough copper to water to create toxicity. It seems like whatever tiny amounts might slough off in household pipes would be nothing compared to the whopping dose in Pat Coleby’s mix?

  4. Doris says:

    Dunno, I suppose it may depend on how long the pipes are? and maybe how acidic the water is? and even maybe how much copper is naturally available to the animals in their environment. It’s all very interesting to me. Evidently both Heliotrope and St Johns Wart are plants that have lots of copper uptake, and can be toxic in the right circumstances. According to Mark Purdy, in (was it?) Iceland, one valley could have an abundance of copper and the next one over the ridge a shortage. So I guess the more we learn about it the better we can try to manage the situation.

    • workingcollies says:

      Ah, yes, doesn’t Pat say that blue- and purple-colored flowers are usually copper storers? It seems like we have few of those species around here, and what little I see are modest-sized plants. With the exception of comfrey, we have a lot of volunteer comfrey that grows very well here.

  5. Leon says:

    Thank you for a very interesting post. Never thought about it before.

    We use Dumor Sheep Mineral (W) from TSC.

    Calcium – 10 – 12%; Phosphorous – 6% min; Salt – 16-19%; Sodium – 7.1-8.5%; Magnesium – 0.75% min; Potassium – 1%; Iodine – 100ppm; Selenium – 20-21 ppm; Zinc – 1200ppm; Vitamin A – 40,000 IU/lb min; Vitamin D-3 – 15,000 IU/lb min; Vitamin E – 100 IU/lb min.

    Ingredients: Monocalcium phosphate, dicalcium phosphate, distillers dried grains with solubles, salt, calcium carbonate, cane molasses, magnesium sulfate, potassium sulfate, mineral oil, zinc oxide, manganous oxide, ferric oxide, vitamin E supplement, anise flavor, fenugreek flavor, vitamin A supplement, ethylenediamine dihydroide, Vitamin D3 supplement, cobalt carbonate, sodium molybdate, calcium iodate, ferrous carbonate, sodium selenite.

    50# bag is $19.99

    Also, I wanted to subscribe to read your posts via Atom or RSS but couldn’t find a link … did I miss it or you don’t have it on purpose?

    • workingcollies says:

      Hi Leon, I added an RSS subscribe link now. Usually you can have your browser look for a subscription too, e.g. in the tools menu. Thanks for the info on your mineral brand, I’m starting to make myself a bigger chart that compares many brands, I’ll add yours to the list!

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