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Feed tags and trace mineral levels: Do they tell the whole story?

Any cattle producer buying a commercially manufactured nutritional supplement for their cattle knows it comes with a label or tag listing the product information. There are plenty of articles out there about how to read a feed tag; for the most part, it is pretty straightforward. Listed on the tag, you are sure to see:

  • Product name
  • Purpose statement
  • Medication statement (if necessary)
  • Guaranteed analysis
  • Ingredient listing
  • Manufacturer/Distribution information
  • Net weight
  • Feeding directions and management
  • Storage and disposal
  • Precautionary statement or warnings (if necessary)

These are all great things to know, and being tuned in to your feed tag can help you correctly utilize that product for its intended purpose. Honestly, if someone asks me about the management of an unfamiliar product they are using, my first response is, “what does the tag say?” Most questions can be answered, and problems avoided by simply paying attention to the management and feeding directions segment on a tag.

Explicitly focusing on trace minerals, we can also tell quite a bit from what is not on the tag. The ingredient listing section sometimes looks like it contains every nutrient your animals need, and a few kitchen sinks for good measure. However, once you begin digging into what is really in that product, it is not always clear how much of each nutrient it contains. Progressive producers demanding improved performance are intelligently focusing on mineral supplements containing the more bioavailable, organic forms of the trace minerals copper, zinc, manganese, cobalt and selenium to get the maximum return from their genetic investment, and rightfully so. We know the inclusion of organic trace minerals (OTMs) can improve fertility, immune response and growth performance due to their increased absorption level in the body. But how much is really getting into our cows for the extra dollars spent? Typical mineral programs containing OTMs include only a portion of that particular trace mineral in the organic form, listing it as a proteinate (e.g., copper proteinate). For instance, a mineral product claiming to include OTMs could guarantee 1,200 ppm of copper, but the sources could be a mix of copper sulfate and copper proteinate. Is the copper proteinate — the most valuable and available form — included at 50%, 25% or 10%? There is no way to tell the inclusion rate from the tag, and it is often significantly less than you would think. When the listed ingredients include copper proteinate as the only source of copper, such as in CRYSTALYX® Blueprint® products, you are assured that 100% of the copper is in the most bioavailable form and removes all questions regarding levels included in the formula. The same goes for other trace minerals like zinc, manganese and cobalt.



That covers the ingredients, but what about the levels or guaranteed analysis? Over the years, the guaranteed analysis section has resulted in a “Tag Race” when it comes to minerals and vitamins, and “the more, the better” has become the general rule of thumb. Many premium mineral programs are formulated to provide 150–200% of the recommended NRC levels for trace minerals due to the poor absorption of inorganic trace minerals (i.e., sulfates and oxides). This does get more mineral into the animal, but it also leads to elevated levels of unabsorbed trace minerals in the animal’s digestive tract. This can lead to:

  • Negative interactions with other minerals, causing some to be rendered almost completely unavailable.
  • Unintended oxidative effects, causing the immune system to operate at subpar levels, hampering optimal health performance.
  • Fiber-digesting bacteria being restricted, limiting fiber digestion and lowering the energy level of the total diet.

Vitamins are not exempt from the negative impact of inorganic trace minerals and are susceptible to excessive degradation in storage. Studies show that only using OTMs in a formulation can reduce vitamin losses from oxidation by 40–50% in storage situations of up to 12 weeks and, most likely, more in extended situations.

The guaranteed levels of trace minerals in CRYSTALYX Blueprint products reflect the utilization of 100% Bioplex® organic trace minerals in the formulation. The exclusive use of the more bioavailable Bioplex range means there is no need for over-supplementation. This means no frills or tag dressing; just the most effective form of the most important trace minerals at the proper levels.

The transparency of a product label that contains only OTMs in the formula reassures you are getting everything you pay for and the performance you desire. CRYSTALYX Blueprint Mineral products containing only Bioplex organic trace minerals assure that your herd is getting everything they can from your mineral investment. In a time when performance, efficiency and value mean everything, “Targeted Nutrition Without Excess” truly is a fitting slogan for Blueprint Minerals.