Minerals are those elements on the Earth that our bodies need to develop and function normally. They are commonly found in the food we eat and include calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, magnesium, iron, zinc, fluoride, copper, molybdenum, chromium, manganese, iodine and selenium. Some supplements also contain vitamins, which are necessary for our bodies to operate properly. Vitamins are water-soluble and include vitamin C and B vitamins. Minerals are inorganic elements and are absorbed into the bloodstream to be used by cells and the body to perform its functions.
There are many commercially available mineral supplements on the market for beef producers to choose from. These supplements contain predetermined amounts of each mineral and are produced in mass quantities to provide a consistent and relatively inexpensive product. Whether or not a supplement is suitable for a specific beef operation will depend on the mineral profiles of forage sources, concentrate feeds typically fed, soil type and other factors.
Some commercially available mineral supplements are made from organic trace mineral sources and others from inorganic sources. In a process known as chelation, organic carrier molecules are chemically bound to the trace mineral of interest. Chelated minerals are reportedly more bioavailable than inorganic minerals, but they are generally more expensive. The decision to use organic or inorganic mineral sources should be based on careful evaluation of expected benefits to cattle performance in relation to added costs.
In the United States, supplement businesses that distribute through retailers must follow requirements set out in a variety of federal, state and local regulations. For example, in order to sell supplements containing minerals or vitamins, companies must have their products tested by a third party company to ensure that the ingredients are free of harmful levels of contaminants and that there is no undeclared drug substance in the product.
European Union (EU) regulations on vitamins and minerals in supplements require that a food business operator registers as such before placing the supplement on the market. EFSA, the European Food Safety Authority, then establishes harmonised lists of the vitamin and mineral substances permitted to be used in food supplements.