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What is an Organic Trace Mineral?

Nutritionists, along with producers, are always on the lookout for the next big thing to really improve livestock performance. In the case of nutritionists, we’re looking for products that pack a bigger nutritional punch per pound. Organic trace minerals are one of those advances that do bring a little more to the table. But what is an organic trace mineral?

Organic trace mineral refers to a mineral that is bound to a carbon-base molecule; think back to chemistry class, organic versus inorganic. Trace minerals by themselves are inorganic by definition. Binding them to a carbon-based molecule makes them organic. This classification has nothing to do with the USDA definition of organic.

Organic trace minerals have been available since the 1970’s. There are a handful of companies who make and market organic trace minerals. The difference between them is to what the trace mineral is bound. The trace mineral could be bound to an amino acid complex, a protein, a large sugar or a specific amino acid (all carbon-based molecules). There is some debate as to which type of bound trace mineral is the most bioavailable (readily absorbed), but that’s a topic for another time.

Why feed an organic trace mineral? Availability.  If we consider traditional trace mineral sources, such as copper sulfate or zinc sulfate, to be 100% available to the animal, then an organic trace mineral is 105%+ available. The fact that the organic trace mineral is bound to a carbon-based molecule makes all the difference. Think of it in terms of tickets to a game. If you buy your ticket ahead of time, you can walk right up to the gate and move through. The gut, like the ticket taker, is picky about what it lets pass through, having a trace mineral bound to something like an amino acid, sugar, etc. allows the trace mineral to move right through.

The flip side of this is having to buy your ticket at the game. You will still get in, but you’ll just have to wait in a few lines first. Sulfate and oxide trace mineral sources cannot move across the gut wall as they are. They have to have a carrier (ticket) to escort them through. There are lots of places for them to bind to a carrier, however, trace minerals often share the same carrier and so there is more waiting.

The advantage of including organic trace minerals is most often seen in stressed calves and breeding cattle (cows and bulls). When cattle are stressed, regardless of the cause or when high production demands are needed, adequate trace mineral nutrition is vital. Copper and zinc are essential for immune response, as illness is often followed by stress. In breeding cattle, copper and zinc are essential for reproductive performance and are also important for hoof health.

CRYSTALYX® offers 18 products with organic trace minerals for dairy cattle, beef cattle, horses, sheep and goats. Whether you choose a mineral or protein block, your livestock will benefit from the proven reliable intake and palatability that CRYSTALYX® is known for with the added nutritional benefit of organic trace minerals. For more information on any CRYSTALYX® product, see the search options above or contact your CRYSTALYX® representative.