Can Animals Figure Out What Minerals They Need?

A number of companies in the U.S. sell free-choice or cafeteria-style mineral supplements. Their rationale is that ruminants will select the minerals they need and in the quantities they require for maintenance, pregnancy and growth. Is this a good idea?  Not according to  many animal nutritionists who will tell you ruminants are incapable of consuming minerals in correct amounts to prevent or correct mineral deficiencies. They even cite studies support this claim. Unfortunately, researchers who designed and conducted these studies made questionable assumptions about diet selection. Research at USU has demonstrated that ruminants must learn about foods and the consequences of eating those foods before they can make correct choices. Diet selection is not innate nor is it driven by instinct.  This was not factored in by early studies on nutritional wisdom that focused on the innate ability of livestock to balance minerals in their diet. Listed below are assumptions made about these mineral studies and alternative explanations about how animals learn about foods and nutrients, including minerals. Assumption 1. Animals are “genetically programmed” to instinctively recognize needed nutrients similar to the way animals regulate intake of sodium. You can read more about how animals figur

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One thought on “Can Animals Figure Out What Minerals They Need?

  1. In very leached sandy soils, like Central Florida mineral deficiencies are notorious. With free choice cafeteria style minerals our cows have been able to select and make up or excesses or deficiencies very well. Our latest improvement has been separating the trace elements as the water has a Iron excess, now their coats looks much shinier and mineral consumption is very low. I don’t understand why you say that a cafeteria style mineral program would be very expensive as the cattle would only consume what is lacking or to balance an excess. Actually is the best ( for the animal ) and cheapest way to effectively provide needed minerals in the proper ratios.

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