October 16, 2021

Utilizing organic trace minerals offers benefits to livestock industry

NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. — Trace minerals are essential nutrients that are an important part of livestock diets.

“Most of the industry is using a combination of inorganic trace minerals and organic trace minerals,” said Steve Elliott, Alltech mineral management division global director, during a webinar.

“Alltech uses a total replacement concept where we only put organic trace minerals in diets at a significantly lower level,” Elliott said. “There’s no requirement for inorganic zinc or copper. The requirement is for the element.”

The National Research Council provides requirements for what animals need for trace minerals such as zinc, copper, manganese and iron.

“The industry utilizes two to three times as much as the NRC says and initially that was driven by the concept that inorganics are inexpensive so more may be helping the animals,” Elliott said. “We now know that’s not the case and from an environmental standpoint there has to be some concern with over fortification.”

Alltech did research many years ago to evaluate the requirement in chickens when zinc sulfate was added to feed.

“We used breakpoint analysis where we optimize growth in birds and we found the zinc requirement is about what NRC tells us at 40 parts per million,” Elliott said. “And the breakpoint analysis for the organic zinc requirement is 50% of the inorganic.”

Trace minerals interact with each other, Elliott said.

“That is nothing new to the industry, but I think it’s an overlooked concept that maybe we’re hindering or having a negative impact on the diet,” he said. “Many researchers say if we use a high level of one trace mineral, we’re probably going to have to use higher levels of all trace minerals because of the competition and lack of absorption when we see the interactions.”

In addition, there are interactions between the trace minerals and other components in feed such as enzymes, antioxidants and vitamins.

“From research we know there are negative relationships between specific types of trace minerals and essential diet components,” Elliott said.

“No matter what production animal we’re talking about we know trace minerals are going to be exposed to lower pH prior to reaching the site of absorption in the lower intestine,” Elliott said. “So, stability of trace minerals has to be a key consideration when choosing which form to use.”


Sustainability is a key focus for many parts of the livestock industry as the world becomes more concerned with the environment.

“We know excretion of trace minerals is causing issues with water quality so many governments have already legislatively said you have to lower the level of trace minerals in the diet,” Elliott said. “With total replacement we know we can meet those requirements and drive productivity at significantly lower levels of fortification.”

Alltech operates six production facilities worldwide and will have one more come online in the next six to nine months.

“We have a quality control system to analyze all incoming raw materials for heavy metals, dioxins and PCBs,” Elliott said. “They have to be clean of these contaminants prior to producing our products, which ensures our organic trace minerals won’t have any concerns with this type of contamination.”

Selenium is quite unique, Elliott said, because it does not contain a charge in nature.

“So, we can’t chelate selenium,” he said.

Selenium is important for immunity.

“Historically the industry has used inorganic sodium selenite and just like inorganic trace minerals it is very inexpensive, but the uptake of that product is very low,” Elliott said.

Alltech produces selenium yeast.

“Alltech started as a yeast company, so moving into selenium yeast production was natural for us,” Elliott said.

Many research projects have compared feeding inorganic sodium selenite to organic selenium, Sel-Plex.

“With Sel-Plex, we have achieved higher selenium levels in the body of the animal assuring higher immunity and productivity,” Elliott said. “Many publications on Sel-Plex selenium show a variety of positive responses across a broad spectrum of animals.”


Masterfeeds, which was incorporated in Canada in 1929, provides livestock feeds for all livestock species through Ontario and across to Alberta. The company operates three premix facilities and 13 manufacturing plants that make complete feeds and supplements.

“We have some pretty stringent regulations in Canada,” said Paul Groenewegen, director of innovation and nutrition at Masterfeeds. “We must fit within a specific range of minerals — there’s a floor so we can’t go too low and a ceiling, so we can’t go too high.”

This has caused some challenges for the company.

“We found using the total replacement platform, we can go below the floor of what the government allows us to do,” Groenewegen said. “Luckily we’re anticipating at the 2023 implementation, new regulations that remove the floor and that will allow us to accelerate the total replacement.”

Masterfeeds uses Bioplex and Sel-Plex in its programs.

“From a reproductive and young animal performance perspective, there’s nothing on the market that will out perform Bioplex and Sel-Plex,” Groenewegen said.

“Bioplex and Sel-Plex implementation with Masterfeeds in Canada has been extremely successful,” he said. “Live animal performance indicates we have a very positive return on investment.”

For more information about Alltech, go to www.alltech.com or call 859-885-9613.

Martha Blum

Martha Blum

Field Editor