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Selko | Dairy Performance


Managing trace minerals for ruminants under bad weather conditions

The key takeaways from this article

  • Sulphate trace minerals are highly soluble, so they may clump togethter after exposure to moisture, resulting in a poor bio-availability
  • In case of exposure to rain, leaching of sulphate trace minerals into the environment can be significant.
  • Hydroxy trace minerals are highly insoluble, leaching to the environment in case of rain is minimal.

The impact of rain on leaching of trace minerals into the environment

A significant proportion of the global dairy and beef cattle population is lives on pasture. In the summer of 2021, almost every continent experienced widespread flooding. Heavy rainfall and excessive flooding occurred in Western Europe, China and parts of the USA. These bad weather conditions presented a huge challenge to dairy and beef farmers, particularly if their cattle were living on pasture. A recent report published in the Journal Science Advances[1] suggests that most communities can expect that each degree of temperature rise will bring even more extreme wet conditions in the future.

The relation between solubility of trace mineral supplements and leaching

Trace mineral management of cattle is one of the challenges that farmers are facing if their cattle is exposed to heavy rainfall. Davi Brito de Araujo from Trouw Nutrition presents some research findings that can help farmers dealing with this challenge.

Trace mineral supplements containing copper, zinc and manganese can clump together if exposed to moisture which can have a potential negative impact on their bioavailability. Next to that, there is the risk that metals such as copper, zinc and manganese leach when exposed to moisture. This makes them unavailable for the animal and increases the risk of environmental contamination with trace minerals.

The impact of rain on hydroxy trace minerals differs between sources

Selecting a less soluble trace mineral for cattle– one that does not dissolve when it contacts moisture in the feed and from the environment – will reduce clumping issues and reduce the risk of leaching to the environment. Sulphate, organic and hydroxy trace minerals are known to differ from each other in terms of solubility. Research carried out at the University of Florida[2] compared the effect of rainfall on leaching between these three different sources of trace mineral.

Feed efficiency of dairy cows is a key driver of dairy farm profitability

Feeding IntelliBond trace minerals improves digestibility of fibre in the diet, enabling cows to produce more milk out of the same amount of feed.

Learn more about how Selko IntelliBond helps to improve fibre digestibility to optimize performance

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Figure 1. Effect of copper, zinc and manganese source on cumulative metal loss from simple salt-based formulations during simulated rainfall events.

Figure 2. Effect of copper, zinc and manganese source on cumulative metal loss from complete free-choice mineral formulations during simulated rainfall events.

Material and methods

Hydroxy trace mineral formulations, organic trace minerals formulations and sulphate-based trace mineral formulations for cattle were included in the study. For each of the 3 combinations of different sources, both a simple salt formulation and complete free-choice mineral formulation was included in the study. Each of the 6 formulations of cattle trace minerals was exposed to a series of 2-, 4- or 6-inches of rainfall events, occurring over 3 periods in a single week. The results are presented in figures 1 and 2.


Hydroxy trace mineral sources are known to less soluble compared to organic trace mineral sources and sulphates. As a result of this, the loss from initial concentration after exposure to 3 periods of rainfall within a period of 1 week was much less compared to the other two sources of trace minerals. This effect was more pronounced in simple salt-based trace mineral formulations for cattle as compared to complete free-choice mineral formulations for cattle.

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  1. Wiebusch, A. T., Silveria, M.L, Caramalac, L.S, Fernandes, H.J, and J. D. Arthington (2015). Effect of Cu, Zn, and Mn source on preferential free-choice intake of salt-based supplements by beef calves and precipitation-impacted metal loss. J. Anim. Sci. 93: 824, abstract 711.