Minerals – Their function

Minerals - Their Functions


To maintain optimum health all animals’ require a balanced diet receiving adequate levels of all nutrient classes on a daily basis.  The major nutrients required are:  Water, energy, protein, fat, fibre, minerals, electrolytes and vitamins.  Minerals are inorganic substances, present in all body tissues and fluids that play important roles in physiological, structural and regulatory functions within the animal’s body and without adequate levels a number of health issues may arise.  A borderline deficiency of a trace mineral may be present in the diet without an animal showing any outward signs.  Mineral deficiencies or imbalances in soils and forages account partly for low animal production and reproductive problems.   Deficiencies of elements like zinc, copper and magnesium have been implicated in various reproductive events like infertility, congenital anomalies, placental abruption, premature rupture of membranes, still births and low birth weight.[1]


Minerals interact with each other in the animal body.  These interactions can result in mineral elements ‘tying up’ or making other mineral elements unavailable for essential body functions.  Supplements are designed to address deficiencies that may exist and to benefit from the full nutrition value of any one mineral, an adequate quantity of all other minerals must also be met.


The mineral content of feeds and the availability of minerals vary with soil mineral concentrations, plant species, stage of maturity and the conditions of which the feed was harvested.  After decades of farming, humus levels and vital mineral elements have been depleted and leached from the soil, resulting in lower yielding crops and mineral deficient pastures.  It is important for human, animal and plant health to restore this mineral balance but not all mineral supplements are created equal.


([1] Pathak P, K. U. (2004). Role of trace elements zinc, copper and magnesium during pregnancy and its outcome. Indian J. Paediatr. 71, 1003-10054.)


All MegaMin products are based on broad spectrum minerals as the dietary level of any element should rarely be considered independent of the level of other essential nutrients.  For example, phosphorus absorption is reduced if calcium, sulphur, manganese or copper is lacking.


Calcium (Ca)

Is one of the most important macro minerals in the body and in the soil. Calcium is required for a wide range of bodily functions including transmission of nerve impulses and as a structural component of bones and teeth. It is required in a ratio with phosphorous of 1:1 to 8:1 and it is now realised that the old idea of a strict 2:1 ratio is not required provided both calcium and phosphorous are adequately supplied. Recent research indicates that requirements are not as high as once thought providing calcium is in a form readily absorbed by the animal and balanced with other minerals. Deficiencies are often associated with grain feeding or grazing improved pastures particularly tropical grasses. Classic deficiency symptoms include hypocalcaemia or milk fever, calving difficulty, retained placenta, prolapsed uterus, rickets, osteomalacia, skeletal abnormalities such as “big head” in horses and stunted growth.


Phosphorus (P)

Phosphorus has more known functions than any other mineral in the animal's body and it plays an important role in the conversion of feed into energy. An adequate supply of phosphorus in a form that can be absorbed by the animal to support these physiological processes is essential for optimum livestock health and production. Phosphorous is the most limiting factor in cattle production in wider areas of northern Australia. Classic deficiency symptoms include brittle bones, “peg leg”, depraved appetite, emaciation, poor appetite, low production and reproduction. Response to supplementation is often enhanced when the supplement includes calcium, sulphur, manganese, and copper. Excessive rates of supplementation may result in reduced absorption.


Magnesium (Mg)

Magnesium is essential for many vital processes in the animal’s body such as a structural component of bone, activator of enzymes for carbohydrate & lipid metabolism. Deficiency symptoms include nervous behaviour, stiff stilted gait, twitching face and ear muscles, collapse, sudden death (grass or oat tetany). Animals grazing lush oats and grasses in cool humid weather are particularly at risk.


Sulphur (S)

Sulphur is essential in the formation of a number of amino acids and is a major component of wool. The important microbes in the rumen have a high requirement for sulphur. Sulphur assists in the detoxification of prussic acid in sorghum and is more readily available in green pasture and almost universally deficient in dry feed. Deficiency reduces the animals’ ability to digest roughage and can lead to marked reduction in production due to reduced microbial protein.


Potassium (K)

Potassium is important in the regulation of osmotic pressure, muscle contractions, and certain enzymatic reactions. Deficiency symptoms include dehydration, reduced weight gain, depraved appetite, rough coat and muscular weakness. Potassium deficiency may be associated with calving and lambing difficulties.


Iron (Fe)

Iron is an essential component of a number of proteins involved in oxygen transport and utilisation. The typical symptom of deficiency is anaemia – lack of stamina, laboured breathing, reduced resistance to disease.


Silicon (Si)

Silicon is the most overlooked mineral in animal nutrition and is incorporated into joint cartilage and is essential for bone formation, collagen synthesis. Silicon plays a vital role in cell formation, being of particular importance for hair and hooves. The importance of silica in plant growth and human health has only recently gained attention. Deficiency symptoms include reduced bone formation and cartilage/collagen strength.


Manganese (Mn)

Manganese is an essential biocatalyst in normal growth and bone development, maintenance of body weight, and proper functioning of reproductive and mammary glands. Manganese activates calcium, phosphorous and iron and is important for rumen bacteria. The most important symptoms of deficiency include the reduction in the ability to absorb phosphorous and a reduction in microbial protein resulting in retarded growth, skeletal abnormality, ataxia, low reproductive performance.


Zinc (Zn)

Zinc is critically important for the normal function of the immune system and is an enzyme component and activator (essential in bone, cartilage, hoof formation and health of skin). Deficiency symptoms include reduced production, reduced testicular growth, poor growth, depressed appetite, reduced disease resistance, birth defects and neurological disorders.


Copper (Cu)

Copper rates second to phosphorous as the most common limiting mineral in animal production in northern Australia. Copper is involved in haemoglobin synthesis, enzyme systems and pigments. Deficiency symptoms include dull rough coat, lack of colour in coat, steely wool, fragile bones, reduced growth, poor reproduction, sudden death. Deficiencies often occur in association with cobalt deficiency or can be caused by excess supplementation with sulphur or over use of fertillisers containing molybdenum.


Cobalt (Co)

Cobalt is required by rumen bacteria to synthesise vitamin B12 which is involved in haemoglobin formation and metabolism. Typical deficiency symptoms include a wormy/wasting appearance, running nose and eyes, anaemia and death.


Boron (B)

Boron is believed to be necessary for mineral stasis and is also thought to play a role in normal brain function.


Iodine (I)

Iodine is involved in the production of thyroid hormones and is important for growth and metabolism. Deficiency symptoms can include goitre (swelling of the neck from enlargement of thyroid gland); hairless, weak or dead young.


Molydbenum (Mo)

Molydbenum is an important enzyme component and deficiency symptoms include scouring and reduced growth.


Selenium (Se)

Selenium is an important mineral in reproduction and immune function. Deficiencies have been linked to retained placentas, poor growth, white muscle disease, immunosuppression and reduced wool growth. Selenium may have a very narrow safety margin. Superphosphate application may reduce Selenium availability.