Minerals are underrated. For a lot of minerals, only a tiny amount is needed for them to take an immense part in the body’s ability to stay alive and well. Many come from rocks, but often those rocky mineral sources are broken up and modified by plants, or simply mixed into water and heated a bit, and come out the other side better and easier for the body to use. Since there are so many different forms of these minerals, we wanted to give you a peek into what these minerals and their attachments do in the body.
Calcium Carbonate, limestone, high calcium lime, high calcium limestone, powdered lime, powdered limestone, crushed limestone.
Limestone, all its forms, is often shown on a label as “calcium carbonate” because that’s the vast majority of what makes up the stone. The rest is usually other helpful elements, like iron and magnesium, and some limestones even have a higher concentration of calcium. Calcium carbonate is one of the most common ingredients you’ll see, because calcium is so important to the body. We all know calcium in the diet is vital to healthy bones, but it’s also essential to proper nerve and muscle function, as well as activating vital proteins in numerous hormone and endocrine pathways. The carbonate that the calcium is attached to in calcium carbonate acts as a pH buffer, which for the most part keeps the pH in the stomach stable, but also plays a role in the blood stream and body tissues to keep pH where it needs to be.
Something worth mentioning is that plants can also benefit quite a bit from calcium, and not just animals. Limestone is a very common soil amendment, especially for productive plants such as tomatoes. It helps regulate soil acidity as well as providing essential calcium to maintain production of vegetables and fruits all season long.
The calcium in calcium iodate we’ve already discussed, but the iodate performs a couple of very important functions. It can be found as a part of two thyroid hormones, both of which are as important to controlling the body’s metabolism as insulin is to controlling blood sugar levels. While a lot of iodine isn’t necessary to keeping animals alive and free from goiters, studies have shown that having a little extra iodine can help prevent other problems such as pink eye in cattle.
Cobalt carbonate, cobalt glucoheptonate
Cobalt is the most important part of vitamin B12, giving it its alternate name: cobalamin. While cobalt’s only function is creating vitamin B12, this vitamin dabbles in systems across the body ranging from energy production to red blood cell maturity. B12 is only made by microbes, so providing enough cobalt to those microbes to produce enough B12 for an animal to thrive is vital.
The carbonate, just as with calcium carbonate, acts as a pH buffer. Glucoheptonate is pretty neat, too. It’s an acidic form of a broken glucose ring that binds particularly well to metals. Because it’s so similar, structurally, to glucose, it’s easier for the body to use the metal it’s attached to than if the metal were attached to a carbonate.
Copper lysine complex, copper sulfate
Copper is one of those minerals that’s essential to complex life. Every cell in the body needs it to produce enough energy to survive. Beyond that, it’s also a vital component in skin, feathers, and fur, as well as playing roles in the brain’s ability to focus and a myriad of other functions. Lysine and sulfate attached to copper both make the copper more accessible than many other attachments, such as chloride and carbonate. This is partially because those components are often more desirable to the body than the other parts. Lysine in particular is an essential amino acid that most animals have a hard time getting enough of, so when attached to copper it can help improve an animal’s nutrition in more than one way. Sulfate, meanwhile, is covered near the bottom of the list.
Monocalcium phosphate, dicalcium phosphate
Both of these are calcium attached to phosphorus, and they’re one of the main ways to get more phosphorus into a feed. Not only is phosphorus necessary to vital cell functions like making cell walls and producing energy, it’s also necessary to balance calcium. Without enough phosphorus, bones become more brittle and excess calcium stays in the blood, where it eventually tries to exit the body through the kidneys. Unfortunately, because there’s too much calcium for the kidneys to handle, this often results in kidney stones. Having the right ratio of phosphorus to calcium is vital to keeping the kidneys – the fine filters of the body – healthy.
Dolomite, dolomitic limestone, dolomitic lime
People are often confused as to what the difference is between dolomite and regular limestone. The answer is in the chemical make-up. Where limestone is calcium carbonate, dolomite is calcium magnesium carbonate. This added boost of magnesium can be delightfully effective for getting magnesium into the correct ratio with other nutrients such as calcium, phosphorus, and iron. It helps calcium absorption, and can decrease absorption of other minerals, which can help keep other nutrients in balance. Similar to regular limestone, this is also a popular soil amendment.
Plants often make good use of magnesium just like they do calcium, and your soil may benefit more from the 1-2 punch of dolomite over standard limestone. This is one of the reasons we use this mineral in our Bedding Buddy bedding extender, as well as its fantastic ability to soak up moisture and odors. Many state universities and extension offices have low-cost soil tests that can give you the best idea of which mineral would be best suited to your soil.
Ferrous sulfate monohydrate, ferrous sulfate, iron sulfate
All of these are forms of iron, which is another one of those minerals that’s incredibly essential to complex life. Iron, as well as being the main way oxygen gets around the body and is stored in muscle, can also be found in bones, proteins, and even hormone production. It’s even essential to energy production in a similar way to copper. The sulfur attached to iron makes it easier to absorb, and “monohydrate” just means that there’s a water molecule attached.
Hydrated sodium calcium aluminosilicate, sodium calcium aluminosilicate
These two clays are very useful in different ways. The hydrated version, which we sell as Redmond Conditioner is soft and very water absorbent, making it fantastic for making sure a feed stays fresh and flows nicely both through our machinery and into your troughs. The kind that isn’t hydrated, which we sell as Redmond Swell Clay has a lovely texture that allows pellets to stick together nicely without becoming too hard.
Magnesium oxide, magnesium sulfate
Magnesium, in all its forms, is a key component to many functions across the body. It helps insulin regulate blood sugar, helps cells divide and multiply, and helps other minerals like calcium pass through a cell’s walls. One of its most vital functions, though, is keeping the immune system healthy and strong. Oxide and sulfate are two of the most efficient forms of getting magnesium into the body, and sometimes having extra is better, such as during plush spring pasture growth when animals are most at risk for magnesium deficiency.
Manganese carbonate, manganese methionine complex, manganese sulfate
Manganese, despite often being misread as magnesium, is a distinct and separate element. Despite being a different element, it actually has quite a lot in common with magnesium, making it even more confusing. It also plays roles in calcium absorption, metabolism, and immune function. However, manganese has a less significant role in immune health and a much larger role in hormone production and nerve health than magnesium. Oxide, amino acid complexes, and sulfates are the most efficient forms of getting magnesium into the body, but carbonate makes a close second. Methionine in particular is especially efficient, and is also an essential amino acid similar to lysine.
Potassium is the main way a body keeps its pH in proper balance. If pH gets to acidic or too alkaline, it affects proteins, and without properly functioning proteins in one of the body’s systems, that system can’t do its job at all. Potassium is also vital to nerve communication and muscle contraction, allowing the body to communicate between its various parts. Luckily, potassium is a very abundant mineral, and it easily absorbed even in its chloride form. The chloride itself we’ll discuss in the salt section.
Silicon dioxide, diatomaceous earth
Silicon dioxide, also known as diatomaceous earth, is made of shells built by microscopic creatures. It’s incredibly water absorbent, which can help keep feeds fresh for longer, but it’s also particularly deadly to bugs, acting as a natural form of pest control in bagged feed. It acts by breaking apart the oils on a bug’s exoskeleton, which causes the bug to dry out and ultimately die. Since animals without exoskeletons don’t have this sort of barrier anywhere in their body, it’s a harmless dust to all other creatures.
You might also know this fancy chemical as common baking soda. Sodium is a positively charged atom, and bicarbonate when broken apart, is bi (two) and carbonate. In other words, this is a heck of a nice buffer and helps raise and subsequently stabilize the pH of an animal’s digestive tract. While not every animal needs baking soda to keep their digestive tract healthy, it’s useful to have in herbivore diets, specifically, because they tend to be more sensitive to acidic conditions in the gut. It’s especially popular for goats, since those curious creatures love trying all manner of plants, which can sometimes lead to tummy upsets. The sodium by itself is also essential to the body, but we’re getting close to that section.
Sodium selenite, selenized yeast
Selenium is a seemingly mysterious nutrient because so very little of it is needed for it to make a difference. The place where it’s most often felt is in reproduction. Selenium is vital to not only conception, but also the proper growth and development of the baby. This is partially because it plays a role in nearly every body system, from making DNA to helping the immune system. Despite all these functions, every livestock species needs less than one part per million of selenium to thrive. Even with this teensy amount being all it takes, though, many soils are too deficient in selenium for animals to properly conceive, and most are deficient compared to what’s optimal, so we like to give our feeds a boost.
Sulfur is a primary component of a few essential amino acids, particularly methionine and cysteine. For most animals, they have to rely on a food source to get these amino acids into their diets, but ruminants are able to produce their own via the microbes in their rumens. As a result, feeding a little bit of sulfur can be a great way to increase a ruminant’s access to those amino acids, which as we’ve discussed with methionine can be wonderful for increasing gains and maintaining health.
Sodium chloride, sea salt, salt, ancient sea salt with natural trace minerals
Sodium chloride, which most people know as table salt, is made of two of the most useful elements in the body. Both of them play roles virtually everywhere, from maintaining cell hydration, to nerve communication, to regulating temperature. Since these minerals are bonded by sodium’s positive charge and chlorine’s negative charge, they are also easy to separate and attach like a magnet to other substances to balance them out, as is the case with many of the minerals above. Plus, salt can be used to enhance palatability or limit intake for many animals, depending on how much is used, as well as helping to preserve food by keeping moisture and bacteria from taking hold. The natural trace minerals that usually accompany sea salt are things like zinc and iodine, which allows the salt to pull double duty in balancing some of the other minerals.
Zinc carbonate, zinc methionine complex, zinc sulfate
Zinc is considered by many to be the most important mineral to the immune system. It’s needed for growth and development of white blood cells, as well as the body’s ability to heal tissues. Beside these vital functions for the body to stay healthy from internal and external threats, zinc is also the reason DNA is able to stay stable when it’s coiled up, and even acts in communication pathways between cells. Zinc is, for sure, one of the most underestimated minerals on this list.
Many minerals are very water soluble and pass through the body easily, which means they have to be eaten every day to replenish what was lost the previous day. Of course, as with all things, it’s possible to have too much of a good thing. Some minerals taste bitter and may cause a picky eater to turn up their nose if there’s too much, and others, like cobalt, can be toxic if there’s too much. Further, balance is incredibly important to keeping an animal healthy. For instance, dairy cows are often happy with a 4 to 1 ratio of calcium to phosphorus, but most beef cattle will have problems even when lactating if their calcium to phosphorus ratio has more than 2 parts calcium to one part phosphorus. Further, minerals like iron and manganese frequently compete with each other to be absorbed, which can lead to deficiencies even when there’s enough mineral by quantity in the diet.
We carefully research and cross-reference the needs of every animal when we’re making a new formulation to make sure your animals are getting the right nutrition for their species and life stage. We’re proud to offer you products that are crafted to help maintain your animal’s best health and production, and do our absolute best to make sure that our products are of the highest quality for your family, community, and planet. Check out our organic, soy-free feeds and minerals and see just why we love what we do.