Function And Deficiency Indicators For Important Minerals In Animal Nutrition

The Function and Deficiency Indicators for Important Minerals in Animal Nutrition

Minerals play important roles in physiological, structural and regulatory functions within the animal body. The term ‘essential mineral’ is used in reference to a mineral that has been proven to have a metabolic role in the animal body. The nutritionally important essential minerals are further divided into macro-minerals and trace-minerals. Macro-minerals are those that are present in larger amounts in the body or are required in larger amounts in the diet. Micro-minerals are often referred to as trace minerals and are present in low levels in the body or are required in smaller quantities in the diet.

Mineral nutrition is quite complex as the 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.

The following table shows the function and deficiency indicators for some of the minerals that are of concern in animal nutrition.


  • Skeletal growth
  • Teeth formation
  • Transmission of nerve impulses
  • Muscle contraction
  • Enzyme activation
  • Controls heartbeat
  • Blood clotting
  • Hormone secretion
Deficiency Indicators
  • Osteomalacia
  • Rickets
  • Milk fever (hypocalcaemia)
  • Reduced and depraved appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Growth retardation
  • Reduced fertility
  • Bone demineralisation (Big Head in horses)
  • Involved in almost all metabolic reactions
  • Bone and tooth formation and maintenance
  • Enzyme formation
  • Amino acid, carbohydrate and fat metabolism
  • Involved in sugar digestion and energy production
  • Muscle building
  • Genetic transmission
  • Acid base balance
Deficiency Indicators
  • Depraved appetite (bone chewing)
  • Weakness
  • Demineralisation of bone
  • Poor appetite, growth and feed conversion
  • Loss of calcium
  • Reduced fertility (failure to show oestrus
  • Low conception rates), Reproductive failure
  • Dull, dry hair/coats
  • Disturbance of energy metabolism
  • Reduced milk yield
  • Formation of amino acids
  • Detoxifier
  • Important for the manufacture of microbial protein
  • Involved with carbohydrate metabolism
  • Involved in connective tissue
  • Involved with energy metabolism
  • Part of haemoglobin
  • Part of energy regulation
Deficiency Indicators
  • Related to protein deficiency
  • Slow growth
  • Reduced feed intake, digestibility and microbial protein synthesis
  • Poor wool growth
  • Wool and hair shedding
  • Weakness
  • Required for growth, repair of body tissues
  • Bone and teeth integrity
  • Fat, protein and carbohydrate metabolism
  • Enzyme activation
  • Neuromuscular activity
  • Cell respiration
  • Involved in hormonal activity
  • Relaxes nerve impulses
    • Increases rumen pH and can help increase milk yield and butterfats
    • Elevated levels can improve marbling score in cattle fed a fat supplemented diet.
Deficiency Indicators
  • Grass Tetany (Hypomagnesaemia)
  • Hyper-irritability
  • Retarded growth
  • Convulsions
  • Reduced feed intake
  • Anorexia
  • Muscular incoordination
  • Excessive calcification of bone and fat tissue
  • Osmotic balance
  • Electrolyte essential for acid-base balance
  • Muscle/cell formation
  • Transmission of nerve impulses
  • Necessary for muscle and heart contraction
  • Essential for nutrient transfer to cells and removal of waste
  • Necessary for absorption and metabolism of sugars and amino acids
  • Involved in appetite
  • Involved in body water regulation
  • Enables more efficient utilisation of digested protein and energy
Deficiency Indicators
  • Poor feed conversion
  • Reduced reproductive efficiency
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss
  • Ill thrift
  • Rough coat and lack lustre eyes
  • Reduced water intake
  • Skin dehydration
  • Incoordination of muscles and collapse
  • Maintain osmotic pressure and body fluid balance
  • Acid-base balance
  • Regulation of water balance
  • Involved in respiration and regulation of blood pH
  • Involved in producing gastric juice and stomach pH
  • Found in large concentrations within and without the cells of body tissues
  • Activation of enzymes
  • Suppresses microbial growth, acidic diets encourage Ca absorption
Deficiency Indicators
  • Alkalosis resulting in slow shallow breathing
  • Muscle cramps
  • Reduced food intake
  • Dehydration
  • Lower milk production
  • Poor growth
  • Convulsions
  • Nerve and muscular function
  • Digestion of food
  • Fluid transport
  • Osmotic balance
  • Hormone release
  • Embryonic development
  • Acid-base balance
  • Enzyme activation
  • Important for transportation of oxygen and carbon dioxide by the blood
  • Protein synthesis and carbohydrate metabolism
  • Energy production, normal heart activity, required by bacteria
  • Water balance
Deficiency Indicators
  • Reduced appetite
  • Reduced growth
  • Dehydration
  • Muscle weakness
  • Nervous disorders
  • Cardiac weakness
  • Diarrhoea (common cause of deficiency)

Trace Minerals

  • Co-factor in over 200 enzymes in metabolism
  • Essential for skin, bone, cartilage, hoof, hair and feathers
  • Essential role in the immune system
  • Involved in the production, storage and secretion of individual hormones
  • Affects growth, development, reproduction, bone and blood formation
  • Essential for the development and functioning of reproductive organs
  • Involved in wound healing
Deficiency Indicators
  • Reduced growth rate and poor skin condition
  • Poor appetite
  • Bone problems
  • Poor wound healing
  • Poor testicular development
  • Impairs sexual function
  • Poor hair and wool formation
  • Emaciation
  • Affects the immune system
  • Impairment of glucose tolerance
  • Deranged electrolyte balance
  • Required for development and maintenance of skeletal and vascular systems
  • Needed for blood haemoglobin and myoglobin synthesis
  • Component of or essential in the activity of many enzymes
  • Involved in the body’s oxygen metabolism
  • Important for proper cardiac function and immune system
  • Required for pigmentation of hair, feather and wool
  • A key component of keratinisation of hair, wool and feathers
  • Needed for the structure and function in the central nervous system
Deficiency Indicators
  • Anaemia
  • Poor growth
  • Reproductive impairment
  • Reduced protein synthesis
  • Lameness, swelling of joints
  • Depigmentation of hair and wool
  • Diarrhoea
  • Weak, broken bones
  • Nerve disorders
  • Cardiovascular disorders
  • Abnormal appetite
  • Keratinisation failure in hair, fur and wool
  • Abnormal skeletal development
  • An essential component of thyroid hormones which regulate the metabolic rate
  • Production of various body enzymes, e.g. in respiratory system, phosphorylation, oxidation and protein synthesis
  • Helps regulate basal metabolic rate
  • Required for growth by some rumen microflora
Deficiency Indicators
  • Goitre (swelling of the neck from enlargement of thyroid gland)
  • Reduced growth rate
  • Reduced metabolic rate
  • Dry skin and harsh, brittle hair
  • Weak, dead or hairless newborns
  • In growing animals a shortening of leg bones
  • Acts as an anti-oxidant to prevent polyunsaturated fatty acid oxidation to toxic radicals that damage muscle and cell membranes
  • Is part of an enzyme that regulate thyroxine hormone activity
  • Plays a role in resistance to viral infection
  • Protects some tissues from poisonous substances (arsenic, cadmium, silver and mercury)
  • Important for reproduction, growth, and protects muscles from degeneration
  • Involved in liver function
  • Necessary for the repair of DNA
  • Aids in retention of Vitamin E in blood plasma
Deficiency Indicators
  • Poor muscle development and pale, weak muscles (White Muscle Disease)
  • Nutritional muscular dystrophy (NMD)
  • Myocardial disease
  • Reproductive disorders
  • Reduced disease resistance and immune response
  • Poor growth and feed utilisation
  • Essential for the functioning of brain and nervous systems
  • Enzyme activator
  • Maintains bone mineralisation
  • Maintains normal central nervous system function
  • Involved in carbohydrate, protein, nucleic acid and fat metabolism Involved in formation of chondroitin sulphate in cartilage and joints
  • Needed for blood clotting
  • Involved in cholesterol synthesis and insulin activity
  • Enables the body to use thiamine (B1) and Vitamin E
Deficiency Indicators
  • Poor growth
  • Skeletal abnormalities
  • Reproductive failure
  • Impaired fat and carbohydrate metabolism
  • Nervous disorders
  • Affects membrane integrity
  • Shortening and bowing of joints
  • Reduced Vitamin K-induced clotting response
  • Incorporated into haemoglobin, muscle myoglobin, storage forms and muscle oxidative enzymes
  • Cellular respiration
  • Metabolism
  • Activation of oxygen and electron transport
  • Immune system
Deficiency Indicators
  • Anaemia (low red blood cell count)
  • Paleness of mucous membranes Changes to skin and hair condition
  • Fatigue and lack of stamina
  • Laboured breathing
  • Diarrhoea
  • Poor growth
  • Reduced appetite
  • Increased susceptibility to disease
  • Involved in growth and skeletal development
  • Important for connective tissue development
  • Incorporated into joint cartilage
  • Essential for bone formation and collagen synthesis
  • May be a factor in the immune system
Deficiency Indicators
  • Reduced growth rate
  • Affects bone formation
  • Reduced cartilage and collagen strength
  • Hair loss
  • Involved in enzyme reactions
  • Important for immune response
  • Maintains nervous system integrity
  • Incorporated into the structure of Vitamin B12, which is involved in haemoglobin formation and metabolism
Deficiency Indicators
  • Pining (emaciation, anaemia, listlessness, rough coat, poor appetite)
  • Ill-thrift
  • Reduced conception rates
  • Abortion
  • Rough hair and scaliness of the skin
  • Increased susceptibility to infection and parasitic burdens
  • Poor mucous membranes
  • Loss of appetite and retarded growth
  • Fatty degeneration of the liver
  • Involved in carbohydrate metabolism and activity of insulin hormone
  • Stimulates insulin activity glucose uptake by organs and muscle
  • Involved in nucleic acid metabolism and therefore protein synthesis
  • Stimulates fatty acid and cholesterol production in the liver
Deficiency Indicators
  • Affects glucose metabolism with high blood sugar and the loss of sugar in the urine
  • Affects protein and lipid metabolism
  • Affects insulin output and activity
  • Protein synthesis is indirectly affected by chromium
  • Mineral stasis
  • May have an effect on some vitamins, bone structure & regulation of parathyroid hormone.
Deficiency Indicators
  • Low Ca and Mg retention
  • Reduced growth
  • Impaired immune function
  • Poor conception
  • Plays a role in protein synthesis and oxidation reactions
  • Helps in the metabolism of fats and carbohydrates
  • Involved in DNA metabolism
  • A component in the enamel on teeth
Deficiency Indicators
  • Reduced feed intake and growth
  • Impaired reproduction
  • Elevated mortality in mothers and offspring
  • Most often related to Cu and S excess

Ewing, W. a. (2005). The Minerals Directory. Leicestershire: Context.

Hungerford, T. (1990). Ninth Edition Diseases of Livestock. Sydney: McGraw-Hill Book Company.

Kohnke, J. K.-J. (1999). Feeding Horses in Australia. Barton: Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation.