Seeking the Holy Grail of Livestock Supps

j0405454[1]After seeing excellent results from offering the Purina goat mineral mix to my sheep, I decided to do a little more experimentation. Before I got my forage analysis results back, I decided to offer two varieties of Sweetlix brand of supplements as an option side-by-side with the Purina mineral.

I had several reasons for wanting to do this, at the time. For one, Sweetlix looked like a better brand overall, it had “more stuff” in it than the Purina mix. And, it offered me the ability to put two similar tasting minerals side-by-side, one with a lot of copper and one with a little copper, because they have both a sheep and a goat variation. I figured this would give the sheep greater control over their own copper consumption. I can’t do this with the Purina goat mix, because there is no low-copper version that’s otherwise identical. Purina and Land O’Lakes apparently don’t make sheep minerals.

I had been feeding the Purina mix for about seven weeks when I really started to notice foot health improvement, and it was about this time that I started offering the Sweetlix mixes too. The sheep showed a clear preference for the Purina mix and continued to eat more of that than anything; but they did also eat both varieties of the Sweetlix mix, possibly favoring the low copper version. It’s hard to tell for sure, because they always spill some. But, after almost three weeks of offering Sweetlix, I’m noticing my more sensitive sheep starting to limp a little again.

I also offered a bowl of Manna Pro’s goat mix, which is very similar to the Purina goat mix. I thought the mix smelled very strong and offensive, like fertilizer. The sheep haven’t touched it, as far as I can tell. And just as well, because it’s very expensive and only seems to come in small bags.

I called and visited all the feed stores local to me, and this is about the extent of what I can get locally for “broad” commercial mineral supplements.There are a few more brands available (Morton, Champions, American Stockman) that are mostly salt, and only contain minimal quantities of a few other trace minerals. These are not quite what I’m seeking.

In the meantime, I got my forage analysis, and discovered that the Sweetlix brand, is probably not right for my situation. It contains iron, zinc and molybdenum- all culprits for binding with copper and which are already high in our forage. So, I don’t want more of them in my supplement, as they just complicate my copper situation! I suspect this is the cause of the returning lameness, so have removed those licks. Sweetlix also includes a lot of other minerals which are important, but of which we already have plenty. So, though my opinion is that they have a good brand, it looks like it’s not a complement to our graze. image

I also looked at Redmond Natural minerals, because I can get them from Azure Standard. But they are very high in salt, have added iron, and a low amount of copper. So also not a good mix for us.

It just goes to show that you can’t just pick a mineral based on which label seems to offer the “most stuff” nor what someone else recommends because it works well for them. You really have to look at the nutrient profile of what you’re feeding to be sure you choose a mineral supplement that complements your feed, and also doesn’t detract from it by adding antagonistic mineral relationships. 

Of the commercial mixes apparently locally available to me, Purina is still the winner, both label- and performance-wise, for our situation. The only thing bothersome about it is the mineral oil ingredient, and I’m still wondering about that. It’s known that high doses of mineral oil inhibit nutrient absorption, and indeed it’s used in high doses to address acute toxicity, acute bloat and constipation because of this “pass-through” trait. But some research also suggests that low doses of it are OK. It is sometimes used as a dietary surfactant to help prevent frothy bloat in ruminants (which has been proven to be effective), and is also used to minimize dustiness of feeds. So I’m assuming it’s one or both of those reasons that it’s used in many mineral supplements.

I wish I could access a mix like Purina’s without the mineral oil. I still have the option of making my own, or having it made. I’m coming to realize I don’t think the Pat Coleby mix is right for us either, without further adjustment-I’ll write more about that soon. So, if I did mix something custom for my sheep, it would probably be a very unique product indeed! I think we have a very unusual forage profile, so my search for the perfect product is turning into a search for the Holy Grail!

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