I remembered then some things I learned years ago from my good friend and veterinary colleague, Dr. Bob Scott. Bob had a unique way of looking at things and could translate complicated subjects into an easy to understand broad overview using simple analogies. Here is his view of the role of minerals in plants and animals.
Plants are made up of air and water. If you combine carbon, as from carbon dioxide, with oxygen and hydrogen (also from air or water), you have the basic building block of starch, sugar, or carbohydrates. Add nitrogen to this basic formula and you have an amino acid or a basic building block for protein.
If you burn a plant thus reducing it to ash you are left with the part of the plant that came from the soil -- usually around 5%. Therefore, 95% of the makeup of plants comes from air and water, combined by the sunshine generated miracle of photosynthesis.
Minerals are nature’s “tools” that enable this process to proceed. They are basic to the enzyme systems that catalyze the storage of the sun’s energy into the chemical bonds within the plant itself. The major elements are the big wrenches, and the smaller wrenches are the trace minerals. All are essential. Any deficiency or imbalance limits the production and the quality of the crops grown. If some elements are lacking in the soil, they will be lacking in the crop. If they are lacking in the crop, they will be lacking in the animal eating the crop.
When an animal consumes plants the same tools used by the plant to combine the CHO & N to store energy are needed to break down chemical bonds and release energy to power the metabolic processes of life and production. If the plant doesn’t have enough built-in tools (minerals), extra tools must be provided. Most of our soils are so depleted in minerals it is almost a given that some mineral supplementation is necessary, especially to arrive at the high levels of productivity we strive for today. Without the mineral tools, proper digestion and assimilation of the energy in the feeds simply does not take place.
Even without computers, animals are smarter than man when it comes to balancing their individual needs for the elements of nutrition, especially the major, minor and trace minerals. Providing a choice in mineral supplementation allows the animals to pick the tools they need without being totally locked-in to only the tools recommended by the computer.
|A Precision Tool|
Most farmers probably wouldn’t think much of a mechanic who tried to overhaul a tractor with a screwdriver, a pair of pliers, and a couple of crescent wrenches. Unfortunately, in their role as animal caretakers, some livestock men seem to think a cheap sack of high calcium minerals and a trace mineral salt block are all the tools needed by our livestock to utilize fully the energy stored in ourfeeds. They are wrong!
This item was originally posted to a previous issue of Doc' Holliday's Blog on 3 April 2016