Livestock's daily biological functions depend on minerals, although the specific mineral requirements of different species may vary. Animals may suffer from diverse health problems, poor feed efficiency, gain, and reproductive characteristics when deficient in minerals. Animals require minerals in two different forms, macro minerals and trace minerals (microminerals).
Macro minerals are required in relatively large quantities (usually expressed in grams or as a percentage of their diet). Calcium (Ca), Phosphorus (P), Salt (NaCl), Magnesium (Mg), and Potassium (K) are some examples of macro minerals. Trace minerals (microminerals) are required in small amounts (expressed in parts per million [ppm] or milligrams per kilogram of body weight). While trace minerals are found in very small quantities, their balance is crucial for the animal's daily metabolic processes. Some examples of trace minerals include Cobalt (Co), Copper (Cu), Selenium (Se), Iodine (I), and Manganese (Mn).
A mineral's uptake and absorption occur in the animal's small intestine. This is the beginning of the entire mineral utilization process. Unless minerals are effectively absorbed by the small intestine, most minerals will not be available to the animal and will end up in waste. Trace minerals are available in two forms: inorganic and organic. Since inorganic trace minerals are cheaper, most mineral manufacturers use them.
Inorganic minerals can be identified by the term "oxide," "chloride," or "sulphate," following the mineral name, with oxide being the least absorbed form of the mineral. These forms are not recognized by the gastrointestinal system for the necessary absorption. Under stress conditions, minerals (especially inorganic) are not absorbed as effectively as in unstressed animals. As a result, the animal might suffer from a mineral deficiency, which can cause diverse adverse effects.
In order to combat high-stress periods, it may be necessary to provide the animal with chelated forms of the minerals needed. Chelated minerals are bound to organic compounds (such as amino acids or proteins). They allow for better absorption and overall utilization when compared to inorganic minerals. Under certain conditions, such as the stress of calving, lactating, or breeding, chelated minerals provide the maximal benefit while being cost-effective.