The death of 21 polo horses in 2009 is a clear example of how inorganic and excessive selenium supplementation can result in tragedy. Consider these points when choosing your trace mineral supplements.
Microminerals such as copper, zinc, manganese, iron, selenium and chromium are active components in many cellular functions. Although they are required in relatively small amounts compared to the major nutrient sources in the diet, their intricate involvement in a large number of metabolic processes, ranging from energy generation to antioxidant support, makes their dietary contribution essential.
Trace minerals are typically supplemented in equine diets due to the inadequate amounts in forages and grains. Traditionally, supplement and feed formulations have been from inorganic sources of trace minerals such as carbonates, chlorides, sulphates and phosphate salts. However, naturally occurring trace minerals, such as those found in forages, have been shown recently to be better absorbed and thus more bioavailable to the horse. This has led to the development of minerals chelated or complexed with amino acids to form what is termed a proteinate. This mineral form makes them similar to the forms found in animal and plant material.
Q: How environmentally friendly are the mineral supplements I’m feeding my horse?
Because inorganic trace minerals are poorly absorbed by the horse, traditional practice has involved over-supplementing these in feed formulations. The excess minerals not absorbed are then excreted to find their way into soil and waterways, contaminating both surface and ground water. High levels of minerals excreted in feces can also have a detrimental effect on soil microorganisms, which are essential to maintaining soil structure and quality.
Research shows that organic minerals demonstrate improved absorption, and do not need to be supplemented in excess of recommended daily allowances. The horse will therefore not excrete as much unabsorbed mineral, which is kinder to the environment. Although horse manure may be a lesser environmental issue compared to intensively farmed animals, horse farms have recently come to the notice of the EPA in the US as potential sources of pollution. Ensuring that your horse is fed organic trace minerals will alleviate much of the negative environmental impacts from horse excretions.
Q: Is the form of the mineral that I am using readily absorbed by my horse?
If your horse does not absorb nutrients from the feed you provide, it does not matter how much mineral is initially ingested. The extent of the uptake of trace minerals from the digestive tract depends on their ability to maintain their solubility until they reach their site of absorption and then on the efficiency of uptake into the blood. Due to their similar atomic structures, different trace minerals have a natural interaction that leads to decreased absorption. Also, the phytic acid that is present in forages and grains may bind metals like copper, zinc and iron into indigestible compounds that preclude absorption. Some sugar compounds and natural polyphenols are also known to complex with microminerals and inhibit absorption. Organic minerals that have been bound, or chelated, with amino acids protect the mineral through the challenges of the digestive tract, resulting in increased absorption and an increase in trace mineral status.
Q: Can I assure that the mineral source I am feeding is safe and traceable?
Make certain that the selenium and other micromineral supplementation you are feeding your horse is a non-toxic, organic source that has been researched and proven safe. The USDA National Organic Program regulates organic standards and oversees local certifying agencies.
Contamination with heavy metals such as lead, arsenic, mercury and cadmium is a huge concern in micromineral supplementation. The minerals you feed your horse should come from suppliers who have implemented quality programs that test both raw materials and the final product for contaminants.
Organic minerals are better utilized by the horse than inorganic minerals and are much better for the environment due to the reduced mineral excretion.
Proper trace mineral supplementation for your horses depends on the amount of trace mineral provided and the form in which it is fed. Providing minerals in organic form:
- offers improved digestibility and uptake
- reduces interactions with other minerals within the gut
- lessens the impact on the environment
Organic mineral supplementation will ensure your horse is achieving optimal mineral status and therefore performing at his full genetic potential.
Headquartered in Lexington, Kentucky with Bioscience Centres in the US, Ireland and Thailand, and offices and distributors in 120 countries, Alltech is a leader in the animal health and nutrition industry. Steve Elliott is Alltech’s Global Director for Bioplex® and Sel-Plex® mineral ranges. The company is the title sponsor of the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games 2010 to be held in Lexington. Find more information at www.alltech.com