Minerals —- Do the math!

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    For me, working with horses means doing it in a way that is economical as possible. At the same time I need to make sure the horses are in good health especially since I am using them as part of a commercial enterprise. I’m not all about the bottom line but I have discovered that I can EASILY spend more on a team of horses and their care (feed, minerals, hooves) than a comparable used tractor and its care (fuel, maintenance). For me, doing my own hoof trims, finding local hay and mixing my own minerals is the cheapest way to keep animals. Trimming is an art with a steep learning curve which some may not be comfortable with, but mixing your own minerals is not that hard and can save you $1000s.
    When I first started with my own horses a few years ago I was giving them a selenium/vitE supplement and free-choice mineral salt costing about $450/year for the team. I thought this was the cheapest and best I could do for them. Since then I have come up with a much cheaper and effective mineral regime. Discussions with my Vet and combining the information found in The Merck Veterinary Manual; Draft Horses an Owner’s Guide by Valentine; and Care and Rehabilitation of the Equine Foot by Ramey led me to the following approach:

    No more trace mineral salt. Just plain white granular salt free choice in a box. The reason for this is because every TM salt I have access to has high levels of Iron. The Northeast USA and the east in general has high levels of Iron in the soil and water, generally speaking. Too much Iron interferes with the utilization of Copper and Zinc in the hoof. Also, since I feed none or only small amounts of grain I also mix some Dicalcium Phosphate with the free-choice salt (per Merck Manual). If you feed a fair amount of grain then the Dical wouldn’t be needed.

    Valentine says 1-2mg/day/horse. So I bought a 50lb bag of 200ppm Selenium pre-mix from the feed mill. For a big draft I would shoot for 2mg of Selenium/day so at 200ppm, 10g=0.35oz of the pre-mix would give us 2mg Se. A 50lb bag of the 200ppm selenium equals 2285 doses at 0.35oz/dose. This $15 bag of selenium will last my team for 3 years.

    Copper and Zinc:
    Ramey summarizes the current mineral requirements NRC for horses. He recommends testing your hay so you know what they’re actually getting through the forage first. This is ideal but doesn’t work for me since I get my hay from many different places and it would be $$$ to test every small load of hay. So I assume one thing to start— They’re getting plenty of Iron and leave it out of my mineral mix. Zn:Cu should ideally be 4:1
    I buy one 50lb bag of Copper Sulfate for $65
    I buy one 50lb bag of Zinc Sulfate for $37
    I choose to supplement at 150% of the NRC value since 100% is the minimum.
    Daily 150% for 1000lb horse: Zn 480mg, Cu 120mg
    Daily 150% for 1800lb draft: Zn 864mg, Cu 216mg
    CuS = 25.2% Cu = 7157mg/oz
    ZnS = 35.5% Zn = 10082mg/oz

    1 month for 1 horse = 30 x daily dose = 26000mg Zn, 6500mg Cu ===> 2.56oz ZnS and 0.9oz CuS
    I mix up 3 “horse months” at a time.
    To do this you need a scale which can weigh out fractions of an ounce accurately and another scale which can weigh out ounces and lbs accurately.
    ZnS 7.7oz + CuS 2.7oz + 31.5oz Se 200ppm = approx 2 lbs. Divide this by 90 days and my daily doze of Zn-Cu-Se = 0.46 oz or 0.5oz/horse to make it simple. Next I see how many teaspoons this is and I sprinkle this on their daily grain.
    At this rate my $65 bag of CuS will last me 37 years for the team! And the ZnS will last 13 years for the team!
    I found that I have to use about 1 quart of sweet feed to mask the taste of the minerals or my horses won’t eat it, but you can experiment with what works for you. I also add a splash of vegetable oil with the grain so there’s no dust to irritate them.
    Also, double check yourself. Zinc is not really dangerous but Copper Sulfate and Selenium are more toxic so be careful. Make sure your scale is actually giving you an accurate measurement!

    Vit E:
    In the winter, when the horses are not eating any green grass, I also supplement vit E. Again, I got a 50lb bag of Vit E premix at the feed mill for $45. Valentine says 1 or 2IU/lb/day. 2000lb horse = 2000 IU/day. Most vit E supplements are synthetic and 1000IU is approx. 1000mg.
    My Vit E premix is 20000IU/lb. One horse needs 2000 IU/day = 0.1 lb/day = 1.6 oz/day.
    I measure this out with my scale and make a reference scoop and I’m done.
    This $45 bag will last for about 8 months for my team but I only use it for 5 or 6 months per year or less depending on the grazing.

    I hope the concept presented here can help you all save some money and keep your horses in optimal health at the same time.


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